The collapse of a large bridge is always big news, but Tuesday’s collapse of the scaffolding of an overpass under construction near Oroville had another ingredient that made it irresistible: seemingly miraculous escapes from death.
As nearly everyone knows by now, thanks to the blanket coverage of the event, Rob Sylvester was tooling along in his white FedEx van, carrying a load of packages to Chico, when the scaffolding collapsed on him. One 3,000-pound steel beam fell on the front of the van, another on the back. A couple of feet either way, and he would have been dead. Instead, he suffered only a sprained ankle and cuts and bruises, and slept that night in his own bed.
Jeffrey Doll was almost as lucky. He was the worker atop the scaffolding when it fell. He was able to ride it 50 feet down to the ground, and although he suffered a broken leg and other injuries and is still hospitalized, he’ll recover fully.
Sylvester’s and Doll’s good fortune in surviving a collapse that could have killed them is noteworthy for another reason: The bridge is part of a project designed to save lives. The nearby intersection of highways 70 and 149 has been the site of numerous fatal auto crashes over the years, and the new interchange will be much safer. It would have been morbidly ironic had someone died building it.
Now that traffic has resumed on 149, one big question remains: What caused the collapse? We look forward to the results of the investigation.