The Boston Globe is reporting this morning that Big Dig epoxy provider Powers Fasteners is about to settle a civil suit filed by the family of a woman killed in 2006. Milena Del Valle was killed in July 2006 when a portion of Boston’s Big Dig Interstate-90 connector tunnel ceiling collapsed and crushed the car she was riding in with her husband.
According to the Boston.com article, Del Valle’s family is close to accepting a settlement of approximately $6 million from Powers Fasteners of Brewster, NY in its civil case against the company.
Twelve tons of cement ceiling panels fell on the car Del Valle’s husband was driving. Her husband survived the accident.
Powers Fasteners management was charged last July with a single count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 38-year-old Boston woman. It is the only company facing criminal charges. The company provided the epoxy used to secure the bolts to suspend the tunnel roof ceiling.
Two other large firms involved in Boston’s Big Dig construction project, Bechtel Co. and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas offered to settle the tunnel ceiling collapse case, and other issues within the project without criminal charges. The Boston Globe is reporting that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff have been negotiating with the attorney general’s office and have offered more than $300 million, but no settlement has been reached. According to the article, the U.S. attorney’s office, also investigating the tunnel ceiling collapse, would have to sign off on any settlement.
In August a federal judge accepted a guilty plea from Aggregate Industries NE Inc. for supplying 5,700 truckloads of substandard concrete used in Boston’s Big Dig project. The plea came as part of a settlement in a fraud case that will cost the company close to $50 million. Six managers from Aggregate Industries NE Inc. were indicted in federal court in May 2006, on conspiracy charges they knowingly delivered at least 5,000 truckloads of substandard concrete for use in building the Big Dig’s tunnels, ramps and bridges between 1999 and 2003.
This came just one day after a Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley concluded only three of the myriad companies involved in Boston’s Big Dig construction tunnel project were criminally negligent in last summer’s Boston Big Dig tunnel collapse that killed a 38-year-old woman when the car she was riding in was crushed by falling ceiling panels.
In July, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said while the project’s design was reasonable, it was the epoxy used in the design that was in question. The lack of a timely tunnel inspection program by the state authority overseeing the project was also an important factor.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the July 10, 2006 ceiling collapse in the D Street portal of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in Boston was the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive with poor creep resistance – the epoxy formulation was not capable of sustaining long-term loads. The report released after the hours-long hearing last month said over time the epoxy deformed and fractured until several ceiling support anchors pulled free and allowed a portion of the ceiling to collapse. The use of the inappropriate epoxy formulation resulted from the failure of the contractors to identify potential creep in the anchor adhesive as a critical long-term failure mode and to account for possible anchor creep in the design, specifications and approval process for the epoxy anchors used in the tunnel.
Bruce Magladry, director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety said the epoxy used for the ceiling panels had “exceptionally poor” resistance to such creeping.