Worker falls from Lewis and Clark Bridge, presumed drowned - KPTV - FOX 12

Company says man who fell from bridge was 'very safety conscious'

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Investigators have identified the bridge worker who fell from the Lewis and Clark Bridge into the Columbia River.

Charles William "Bill" Wiley Jr., 40, of Mississippi, worked for Pennsylvania-based Odyssey-Geronimo JV. He fell from the Longview bridge Sunday morning and is presumed to have drowned.

His body has not yet been recovered.

Deputies said the company has been cooperative and maintained contact with the sheriff's office.

Deputies said Wiley was working on the underside of the bridge when, somehow, he fell into the river. Investigators said it is still not clear how or why the safety equipment he was wearing did not prevent the fall.

Deputies have conducted interviews with workers who were at the site when he fell. They told investigators they were working on a platform under the bridge when one of them looked over and saw his colleague fall from the bridge.

His colleagues described Wiley as someone with bridge work experience who was very conscious about safety.

He was married and his wife has been notified about the situation.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office plans to continue the recovery efforts for the victim while coordinating the investigation into the case with the Department of Labor and Industries.

Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to call deputies at 360-577-3092.

Odyssey-Geronimo JV released the following statement Tuesday:

"It is with sadden hearts and deep sorrow that we report the loss of our co-worker Charles William Wiley Jr., better known by friends and co-workers as Bill, who fell to his death in the Columbia River while working this past Sunday. Bill was an experienced union journeyman bridge painter who has worked with us on the Lewis and Clark Bridge for the past two seasons. He was a very safety conscious and a diligent employee.

The only co-worker who witnessed Bill fall took immediate action and called for help from his nearby crew members to call 911 while he called his supervisor. Site supervisors and other trained co-workers immediately came to Bill's rescue by assisting first responders, calling on nearby boaters and deploying a boat to the scene of the fall in less than four minutes. Even such a quick response could not help Bill as no one saw him return to the surface after the fall. Further search in the dangerous waters by experienced scuba divers was deemed futile in making a recovery.

The investigation is ongoing and we are working with the local authorities and the Department of Labor and Industries. At this time, the facts are that Bill was wearing his safety equipment at the time of the incident and there is no evidence of any equipment failure.

We would like to express our appreciation to the local emergency responders for their swift response to our calls for help and their continued recovery efforts. We would also like to thank the local community for their expressed support.

Bill was a loving husband and father from Mississippi and a well-liked co-worker who will be missed. We have made arrangements for his wife to fly to Washington. Our hearts go out to his family and we will do all we can to ease the pain of their loss. May God give rest to Bill's gentle soul and strength to his family to deal with their loss.

We will postpone further comments during the investigations out of respect to Bill's family."

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