Worker Killed In Brazos River Accident Drowned, Autopsy Shows

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WACO (January 30, 2014) A preliminary autopsy was released Thursday for a construction worker killed after falling into the Brazos River near the McLane Stadium construction site.

(Photo by Matt Howerton)

McLennan County Justice of the Peace Kristi Decluit confirmed to KWTX Thursday that Jose Dario Suarez, 55, of Manor, drowned.

The cause of his death has been listed as accidental.

Suarez and another worker were dragged into the water when the equipment to which they were tethered toppled into the Brazos River.

Divers from the Morgan’s Point Dive Team recovered his body at around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday from about 16 feet of water.

"He was still attached to the equipment with his safety harness and flotation devices," Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Wednesday.

An autopsy was ordered.

Suarez and the other worker, whose name hasn't been released, worked for a subcontractor, Derr and Isbell Construction.

"Our thoughts go out to the Suarez family at this terribly sad hour," said Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr in a statement released late Wednesday morning.

"All of Baylor Nation extends our deepest sympathies as we remember in our prayers Jose Suarez and all those whom he loved."

Investigators from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration were at the scene of the deadly accident Wednesday afternoon,Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogelman confirmed.

Work on the bridge was halted Wednesday because of the accident, she said, but work continued on the stadium.

Andy Rittler, a spokesman for the project’s general contractor, Flintco-Austin, also expressed sympathy Wednesday.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the man involved in this tragic incident,” he said.

“We are in the process of fully cooperating in all investigations related to the incident. These investigations take time and when OSHA releases the site back to us, will vary based on the complexity of the investigation,” he said.

Suarez was reported missing after the accident on the site of the construction of the pedestrian bridge that will connect the Baylor University campus to the school’s new football stadium.

He and the other worker were tethered to what Swanton described as a boom or a man-lift on a platform in the river when the boom toppled into the water.

The second man who was pulled into the water was able to swim to safety and was taken to Providence Health Center in Waco for treatment of symptoms of hypothermia.

He was later released.

Police, firefighters and paramedics responded to the construction site at around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The pedestrian bridge across the river is part of a package of infrastructure improvements for which the Waco City Council agreed to contribute $35 million, the largest economic contribution in McLennan County’s history.

The 45,000-seat stadium, scheduled for completion in time for the start of the 2014 season, is under construction on a 93-acre site just off Interstate 35 along the river.

Ground was broken for the stadium in September 2012.

In late July 2013, crews went to work to tear down Baylor’s Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center to make way for the bridge after U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith lifted a temporary restraining order that barred the school from razing the building.

Smith issued the order earlier that month in response to a lawsuit that a Baylor graduate filed over an agreement reached in June 2013 between the university and officials of the independent Baylor Alumni Association that cleared the way for demolition of the building.