Four dead after collapse of bridge during renovation

Photo: CTK

Four people died on Thursday when a bridge collapsed by a small town in the centre of the Czech Republic. The dead were construction workers involved in the renovation of the structure. Questions are now being asked about responsibility for the tragedy.

Photo: CTK
Shortly before 3 PM on Thursday a bridge outside the small town of Vilémov in the central Vysočina region collapsed. The structure had essentially broken into two large blocks.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene and eventually managed to pull two people out of the rubble. One escaped with some broken bones while the other was more seriously injured.

However the scores of fire officers called out were unable to save four construction workers who had been under the bridge when the incident occurred and whose bodies were later recovered. At least two of the victims were from Slovakia, police said.

Speaking early on Friday, fireman Jiří Prchal described his team’s next steps.

Photo: CTK
“We will break up and clear up the wreckage that hasn’t been broken up since our operation was completed. The reason is to make sure that there is nobody else still underneath the wreckage. Nobody expects that there is, but of course we can’t rule that out until we’ve cleared the entire site.”

The police are also at the scene. Dana Čírtková is their local spokeswoman.

“Detectives will examine the scene of the incident after the fire officers remove the rubble. It is necessary to examine the pillars of the bridge, which detectives haven’t been able to do during the night because the victims’ bodies hadn’t been removed from the rubble yet.”

The renovation work on the closed road was being carried out by subcontractors Bögl & Krysl. The company has also figured in two other cases of collapsed bridges. One, in Studénka in northern Moravia, saw a bridge fall on a moving train in 2008. Those incidents had a combined death toll of 12.

However, Tomáš Rotter of the Czech Technical University said on Thursday night that ultimate responsibility lay with the main contractor on the job, a consortium of the companies M-Silnice and Strabag.

Photo: CTK
“The contractor is always responsible for the mistakes of the subcontractor. The contractor, including subcontractors, has to work according to approved implementation documents. These include workflows, deployment of machinery, coordination and naturally ordinary work safety rules.”

The bridge at Vilémov dated from 1926. Inspectors discovered flaws in its structure in November last year during roadwork preparations.