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25 years ago: 28 workers killed in US construction collapse

Apr, 23 2012


(Bridgeport, Connecticut ) -- Bridgeport was the scene of the worst construction disaster in the state’s history on April 23, 1987.

Twenty-eight construction workers died as massive concrete slabs suddenly collapsed, leaving the workers buried under tons of twisted steel and broken concrete.

The construction site, known as L’Ambiance Plaza, was to have been a sixteen-story apartment complex with three subterranean parking structures. The technique known as “lift-slab” construction was being used to set in place the 9th-11th stories at the time of the collapse.

“Lift-slab” construction, in which the concrete slabs for all floors are first poured on the ground with bond breakers in between, then cured and hoisted into place in “packets” with hydraulic jacks placed atop steel beams, is recognized by civil engineers as a cost-cutting method which can be stable once completed but poses significant dangers to the workers involved in the construction process.

The L’Ambiance Plaza collapse was the worst lift-slab accident on record and resulted in a temporary ban on the technique in Connecticut. It has been largely discontinued in the US.

Although there were numerous investigations launched into the disaster, there are still only theories on the cause of the collapse. More than twenty separate parties were found guilty of “widespread negligence, carelessness, sloppy practices, and complacency.” However, an unusually rapid $41 million legal settlement was concluded by a two-judge panel, preventing any conclusive determination of the causes of the collapse and no assignment of responsibility.

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