The collapse of an elevated pedestrian brdge at the Atlanta Botanical Garden Friday morning (December 19) resulted in the death of a construction worker, according to CNN and the Atlanta Constitution-Journal. At least 17 others were injured. Atlanta Fire Captain Gregory Shinkle told the Constitution-Journal that the accident happened at 9:03 a.m. when the construction crew began pouring concrete for the “Canopy Walk” attraction. Within two minutes, rescue workers arrived to administer to the wounded.
A spokesman from Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, announced live on CNN television just before noon that the hospital had received 16 patients from the bridge collapse. Four patients were listed as critical. Several of the injuries were listed as brain-related. There were also spinal and extremity injuries. At least one person had suffered liver damage. The spokesman also said that many of the injured were still being evaluated to determine the extent of their injuries.
At least two have life-threatening brain injuries, according to Dr. Jeffrey Salomone, Grady Hospital’s deputry chief of surgery.
Witnesses said they heard a long and protracted crash at the work site. The companies involved are attempting to ascertain the extent of the damage to the pedestrian bridge and to piece together what exactly happened.
The elevated walkway, called a “skywalk” on the Atlanta Botanical Garden website, is located in the Storza Woods section of the world-renowned Botanical Garden and would offer upon completion a treetop view of the surrounding area. The Canopy Walk reaches a peak elevation of 40 feet.
The website describes the Canopy Walk: “A feat of engineering and design, the Canopy Walk is supported by a virtually invisible system of steel cable wires designed to hold the structure firm and steady without impacting tree roots. This graceful yet strong suspension walkway has been designed and engineered with respect to its surroundings, and will result in minimal impact to the forest floor, and no impact to the most significant trees.”
The Canopy Walk was slated for a Spring 2009 opening.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is located in downtown Atlanta and is set up, according to the mission statement on its website: “to develop and maintain plant collections to display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment.” The Atlanta Botanical Garden is actually a composition of several smaller themed gardens and two woodland areas, the aforementioned Storza Woods and the Upper Woodland. The Fuqua Conservatory offers environments for tropical birds, turtles, and poison dart frogs. Nearly half a million people visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden annually.
Fire Captain Shinkle said that a special team had been called in to shore up the debris so that rescue workers could get in and extricate the wounded. All victims were removed from the pedestrian bridge construction site in less than 55 minutes.