Truck Company Owner Dies In Construction Accident

By Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2006

An Alexandria man working on the Springfield interchange project was killed yesterday after being hit in the chest by a board that he had wedged between two dump trucks, police and construction officials said.

Julio Alvarez Rodriguez, 43, owner of Julio's Trucking in Alexandria, was trying to haul debris away from the construction site, said Larry Cloyed, manager of the interchange project for the Virginia Department of Transportation. The tailgate on Rodriguez's truck would not shut properly, so he tried to close it by placing a three-foot-long piece of thick wood against the gate while another truck backed up against it.

"The lumber either snapped or flung out loose," Cloyed said. "With all that pressure, it came out like a missile and killed him."

The accident occurred at 7:20 a.m. in the construction area between Interstate 395 and the carpool lanes at the Mixing Bowl, Virginia State Police said. Rodriguez was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The force of the [board] caused major injuries in his chest area," Sgt. Thomas Ingham said. Police ruled out criminal negligence or wrongdoing in Rodriguez's death, and an autopsy will be conducted, Ingham said.

Rodriguez was a native of Honduras, Ingham said. Efforts to contact his family and his company were unsuccessful.

Rodriguez was the fifth worker to be killed at the Springfield site since construction began in 1999. The $676 million project, designed to ease congestion at one of the region's most troubled traffic spots, is expected to be completed late next summer. Ninety to 120 people work at the site on any given day.

The most recent fatal accident at the site occurred in April 2005, when Darren Havermale, 35, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was caught between a steel beam and a lift basket, or cherry picker, and suffered a broken neck.

In 2002, the Virginia Department of Labor shut down construction on the project for four days to conduct a safety review after the deaths of three workers in nine months.

Safety has improved, Cloyed said, but five deaths in seven years is "not a good record, in my eyes."

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene yesterday, as were safety inspectors from VDOT and the interchange project. Cloyed said yesterday's incident was a clear departure from approved construction practices.

"It's frustrating when you have a tragedy of this nature that could have been so easily prevented," he said.

"The best lesson learned from this is that the word needs to get out to the trucking community," Cloyed said. "If you have a loose tailgate, this is not the way to fix the problem."

VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris said the accident muted the excitement generated by last week's opening of a ramp linking I-395 to the inner loop of the Capital Beltway.

"We made a major improvement last week when we opened a new bridge," she said, "and now, the next week, we're dealing with a tragic fatality."

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