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Construction to stop for portion of Willits Bypass Project following bridge collapse

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WILLITS- Three construction workers were sent to the hospital when a portion of the Willits Bypass Project collapsed on Thursday afternoon.

Just before 2:30 p.m., workers were pouring concrete for the viaduct portion of the Willits Bypass Project, which is located constructed east of Downtown Willits, over a flood plain.

"The falsework collapsed under the weight of the concrete after it had been poured.  We don't know why because the falsework was engineered to hold all of that weight," said Phil Frisbie, Jr., the Public Information Officer for Caltrans, District 1.

The falsework is temporary and supports the structure while concrete is being poured. 

After the collapse, debris landed on a construction worker with Flatiron West Inc., trapping him.

He was freed by emergency personnel less than an hour later.  He, along with two other Flatiron West Inc. construction workers, were transported to Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits with non-life-threatening injuries.  The worker who was trapped under debris was later transported to a hospital in Santa Rosa.

"Immediately after the collapse, Caltrans and our contractors started accounting for all workers.  All the Caltrans workers were accounted for,” Frisbie, Jr. said.

At this time, Cal/OSHA is leading the investigation into the collapse, and while that investigation is being performed, construction will be halted for the one-mile-long viaduct.

"In the interest of worker safety, it's important for us to know what occurred, so we can be sure that this will not happen on any other section of the viaduct,” Frisbie, Jr. said.

Caltrans is conducting its own internal investigation as well.

"Caltrans' number one goal is safety, both for our workers and our contract workers and the traveling public.  Our hearts go out to these injured workers and their families, and we're going to continue to look at this to ensure that this is a safe project in the future," said Frisbie, Jr.

Flatiron West Incorporated officials say the company is not releasing the names of the injured workers or any other details regarding their medical conditions at this time, out of respect for the workers and their families.