Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials began an investigation Wednesday into the death of a Manor man killed Tuesday while working on a pedestrian bridge near the new Baylor University football stadium.
Diana Petterson, a spokeswoman for the OSHA Dallas office, confirmed that agency investigators were in Waco on Wednesday to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of 55-year-old Jose Dario Suarez, who worked for Derr and Isbell Construction Co. of Euless.
Justice of the Peace Kristi DeCluitt, who pronounced Suarez dead about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, said a preliminary autopsy on Suarez showed the cause of death as drowning and the manner of death as accidental.
She said the preliminary report contained no additional details, but added medical examiners likely would have included other information if there were contributing factors to his death, such as head trauma.
Divers recovered Suarez’s body after freeing him from a hydraulic boom lift, also known as a cherry picker. He and another worker were on the lift when it rolled or slid from a barge into the Brazos River about 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Suarez and the other worker in the lift’s basket were tethered to the lift and using acetylene torches on support beams during construction of the pedestrian bridge that will tie Baylor’s campus to the new McLane Stadium.
The other man was able to free himself from the boom and was pulled to safety. He was taken to a Providence Health Center for treatment of hypothermia symptoms, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
Divers from the Morgans Point dive team in Belton located Suarez with a sonar device and assisted in the recovery of his body, Swanton said. His body was discovered still harnessed to the lift in about 16 feet of water. He was wearing a flotation device, Swanton said.
DeCluitt ordered Suarez’s body sent to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas for autopsy.
“Our thoughts go out to the Suarez family at this terribly sad hour,” Baylor President Ken Starr said. “All of Baylor Nation extends our deepest sympathies as we remember in our prayers Jose Suarez and all those whom he loved.”
Bob Derr, president of Derr and Isbell, and Ben Austin, project manager for general contractor Austin Flintco, did not return phone messages Wednesday.
There was no activity at the work site about 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The $9.1 million bridge over the Brazos River is part of Baylor’s $260 million construction project to build a new football stadium on the banks of the river.
An Austin Flintco senior superintendent said last week that the project is 60 percent complete.