LA freeway construction worker crushed by beam

LOS ANGELES -- A freeway construction worker was killed after a 3,000-pound steel beam fell and crushed him as it was being unloaded from a big rig early Thursday, prompting officials to halt work on the four-year, $1 billion project.

The accident happened on a closed off-ramp that is part of a 10-mile widening and carpool project. The work has required two temporary weekend closures of the busy Interstate 405 _ one last month and another last year _ that became known as Carmageddon I and II.

Hundreds of workers and a lot of heavy machinery is involved in the project, but Thursday's accident was the first serious one reported since construction began in 2009, said Mark Littman, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is overseeing the project.

"Further work on the entire project has been stopped while the contractor does a thorough safety review," the authority said in a statement.

Ten or 15 co-workers witnessed the accident, which happened just before 2:30 a.m. on the Santa Monica Boulevard off-ramp of Interstate 405, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Zizi said.

The men were working on sound walls and retaining walls on the off-ramps. No one else was hurt.

The victim was identified by the Los Angeles County coroner's office as Adolfo Wbaldo Figueroa, 42, of Lancaster. He was employed by Kiewit Infrastructure West and was an excavator operator, Cal-Osha spokeswoman Erika Monterroza said.

The cause of the accident was unknown. Investigations were opened by the CHP, the coroner and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Cal-Osha has six months to complete its investigation.

If inspectors determine there were violations of the state's health and safety regulations, fines can be levied against the responsible contractor or sub-contractor.

The largest fine is $70,000 if willful violations are found, Monterroza said.