A judge who ordered Baylor University and two construction companies to preserve evidence from last month’s fatal accident on the Brazos River said Thursday that the order has expired and apparently was used by an attorney as a “publicity stunt.”
Judge Jim Meyer of Waco’s 170th State District Court issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday, directing Baylor and Derr and Isbell Construction and Flintco not to damage, alter or dispose of videotapes and other evidence from the Jan. 28 accident that claimed the life of 55-year-old Jose Dario Suarez.
Suarez, of Manor, worked for Derr and Isbell and was strapped to a hydraulic lift that plunged into the river during the construction of a pedestrian bridge that links Baylor’s new football stadium to the campus.
Suarez was unable to free himself and drowned. Another man working with him was pulled to safety.
Vuk Vujasinovic, a Houston attorney who represents Suarez’s wife and two daughters, obtained the temporary restraining order from Meyer on Wednesday. But the judge and about 10 lawyers representing the parties talked by telephone Thursday morning to discuss what the judge called “numerous problems” with the order as it was prepared by Vujasinovic.
Among them was confusion about whether the order intended to shut down operations at the new stadium and river bridge until Vujasinovic and a construction safety expert could inspect the site or only during their inspection.
Meyer ruled during the teleconference that the order expired “by its own terms” because there is a line on the order, which possibly was intended to indicate the date the order was signed, that says it expires on Feb. 19, 2014. The judge ruled the order to be “of no further force and effect.”
The judge also told the parties that by signing the order, it was not his intent for Vujasinovic to turn it “into a publicity stunt, and that appears to be what happened.”
Vujasinovic declined comment on the judge’s statement. He said the judge told the parties to “work it out,” adding that he and officials from Baylor and the construction companies are in the process of scheduling his inspection of the accident site and preserving the evidence.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said Thursday that construction at the stadium and river bridge continues.
“We are prepared to halt construction at the site to permit inspection at any time by the family or the family’s representative, and we are conscious of our responsibility to preserve evidence,” Fogleman said.
Attorneys for Baylor and the two construction companies did not return phone messages Thursday.