Worker in borough bridge collapse sues subcontractors

Anthony Mariano, the worker injured in the Salem Bridge collapse, pictured here in 2010, is suing over his injuries. He is joined in the suit with Brunalli Construction, which is suing a subcontractor over the framework that led to the collapse. Work on the bridge is essentially complete and came in under budget. -FILE PHOTO


NAUGATUCK — The construction worker who was critically injured when the Salem Bridge collapsed last year is suing two subcontracting companies that were working on the bridge at the time.

Repairs to the bridge, which connects South Main Street to Cherry Street over the Naugatuck River and the Metro-North railroad, were finished in September, but Anthony Mariano of Middlebury continues to recover from serious injuries he suffered when it collapsed under him June 15, 2010, as he was operating an excavator.

Mariano, his wife, Shirley, and his employer, Brunalli Construction Co., filed a lawsuit last summer against The Hartland Building & Restoration Company of East Granby, which was hired to install a temporary support system for the bridge during demolition.

The company removed cross frames or diaphragms from the bridge while it was being demolished, causing it to lose stability and eventually collapse, Mariano claims.

The lawsuit also names Witch Enterprises Inc. of New Haven, which was hired to make saw cuts on the bridge. The company made cuts that decreased the bridge’s strength, failing to adjust for the weight of an excavator and hydraulic hammer, the lawsuit claims.

Mariano also claims neither company properly inspected the bridge, nor did they warn him that its load carrying capacity had been reduced.

Mariano was breaking concrete at about 6:30 a.m. to replace the bridge’s eastbound section when he noticed the structure was unstable.

He warned his co-workers to get off the bridge and told his supervisor of his concerns before a 100-foot section of the bridge collapsed, according to police.

Mariano fell 35 feet, landing on his back and head on the dirt below. Debris and concrete fell on top of him.

Court documents list 38 specific injuries he suffered, including a cut to the back of his head, broken bones all over his body, internal bleeding, nerve damage, lasting pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and frustration.

He spent 12 days in intensive care at Yale-New Haven Hospital, followed by two months of rehabilitation at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford.

The bridge is part of Route 63, so its reconstruction fell to the state, which hired Southington-based Brunalli.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Brunalli $14,000 for safety violations as a result of the collapse. According to OSHA, the bridge girders were overstressed, and safety inspections were not conducted as work progressed.

Brunalli personnel said the company did not remove the frames, and the company is joining Mariano in the suit. The company claimed it had paid nearly $266,000 in medical costs and nearly $41,000 in indemnity benefits to Mariano as of July, in accordance with state workers’ compensation laws.

In court documents, Hartland claimed its employees did not remove the cross frames and argued that Mariano continued to operate heavy equipment on the bridge despite feeling it sway the day before. Hartland claimed the instability was caused by the saw cuttings.

Neither Mariano nor his attorney returned calls last week seeking further comment.

The state budgeted $23.5 million to replace the bridge, a project that began in 2008 due to deteriorating concrete on the bridge’s piers and deck.

Now complete, the job has come in under budget, said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

“We’re still putting all the numbers together, but it looks like we’re coming in at about $22 million,” Nursick said.

The collapse did not delay the project, as the bridge was scheduled to be demolished anyway, Nursick said.

The new bridge has a 50-year life span, uses the best modern steel and concrete, and has no piers in the water, strengthening the structure and reducing its environmental impact, Nursick said.

“The public will be the beneficiary of a quality bridge for decades to come,” he said.