NEWS

40-metre bridge fall similar to Canadian incident in 2000

01/13/2012 08:54 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

The search for a painter who fell 40 metres off the Ambassador Bridge will resume today, weather permitting.

Kent Morton, 27, of Garden City, Mich., was working for Seaway Painting when he somehow plunged into the Detroit River.

Michigan authorities are still trying to determine what went wrong.

It is not yet known if Morton was wearing a safety harness, but a spokesperson for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MOSHA) said he should have been and it should have been secured to the bridge.

That was not the case in the platform collapse on the Canadian side of the bridge that claimed the life of Canadian Jamie Barker in 2000.

Securing to the bridge was one of the recommendations that came out of a 2004 inquest into the accident.

Don Learn was the foreman of the jury and was shocked when he saw the news of the latest mishap.

"The similarities are so dramatic. A number of those aspects are troubling and reflective of the incident with Jamie Barker," Learn said.

The inquest jury also recommended changes be made to the platform from which Barker fell. And while there are strict rules governing the use of scaffolding and platforms in Ontario, it's unclear how the province's Ministry of Labour rules would apply to the platform from which Morton fell.

The platform is fixed to and extends across the underside of the east side of the suspended part of the bridge.

A Ministry of Labour spokesperson, however, expects one of their inspectors will be coming to look at the platform to see if it complies with their rules.

The spokesperson said Michigan safety laws apply to work being done on the Michigan side and Ontario laws apply to work being done on the Canadian side.

The operations manager of the bridge said their contractors abide by the highest safety standards. Learn said the bridge needs to go a step further.

"There has to be a verification with on-site inspections at all levels, including the Ministry of Labour, the contracting company, and also the bridge company itself," Lean said.

Investigators hope to be able to determine whether Morton was wearing a harness.

According to MOSHA, if the investigation determines a blatant disregard for the Michigan safety regulations in this case, Morton's employer could be face charges, up to $10,000 in fines and a year in jail.

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