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Fall injures Ross Island Bridge painters

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The mishap occurred during a major painting project on the bridge

COURTESY OF PORTLAND FIRE AND RESCUE - Firefighter/paramedics used an aerial platform on Truck 1 to reach workers injured at the current Ross Island Bridge repainting project. A father and son, employed by Minnesota contractor Abhe and Svoboda Inc., who were part of a painting crew working under the Ross Island Bridge, were seriously injured about 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning, February 8.

One man fell 40 feet from the upper to the lower scaffolding inside a curtained-off containment area, and injured the other man when he landed on the lower scaffolding.

Using an aerial platform on Downtown Fire Station Truck 1, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were able to get close enough to reach the injured workers, evaluate their injuries at the scene, and secure them to gurneys before lowering them to waiting ambulances for a trip to OHSU.

"Both men were conscious during the rescue," PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman told reporters.

Co-worker Omar Rubi, later called a "salt" – a worker who acts as an agent for a union; in this case, Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5, according to NW Labor News – freely spoke with reporters.

Rubi said that the father was trying to help his son when one of them fell through a manhole opened for a ladder that connected the scaffolding floors.

Numerous "safety concerns" were present at the non-union work site, Rubi alleged.

The Abhe and Svoboda Inc. workers were involved in a $30 million project removing lead paint and repainting the bridge. Oregon OSHA is now investigating the details of the accident.