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Two Separate Slides Responsible for Cal Trans Worker Deaths

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Updated: 4/25/2013 7:43 pm
There are new details in the deaths of two Siskiyou County CalTrans workers. A rock wall fractured Wednesday, releasing dirt and boulders to fall on two workers, killing them. Another worker was injured but is in stable condition.

Action News learned late Thursday that two back to back slides were responsible for the worker deaths. Officials say there is now way they could have predicted the tragedy.

New pictures obtained by Action News show the Highway 96 rock slide that killed two workers near Happy Camp.

40-year-old Joseph Robert Jones and 50-year-old Shawn Baker were working on a rock scaling operation above the highway.

“In a case like this, it is so unpredictable, just such a big massive rock comes down. It is hard to react to something like that,” said Sal Torres, who has worked with the two men on past scaling operations.

“To me they were just some of the best workers I have worked with,” said Torres.

The men were removing loose rocks to prevent them from falling on traffic below. It’s a common practice but this time the rock wall fractured.

“There was no indication that a slide was imminent and it is just an unfortunate circumstance that they were there at the time,” said CalTrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Wednesday’s news came as a shock to CalTrans employees statewide, but especially to district two where it has been four and a half years since a worker died.

Flags over the Riverside drive office flew at half staff Thursday while officials traveled north to console the victims’ families.

“We are trying to lend as much support as we possibly cannot only to the family members of the individuals that were killed but also to the family of the individual who was injured,” said Dougherty

Meanwhile the investigation continues into what can be changed to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Sadly, this is actually CalTrans worker safety week. A memorial was planned for today in Mount Shasta to honor the 178 workers who have died on the job. In light of the death, the memorial has been postponed and when rescheduled, they'll be honoring two new victims.

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