Construction barge worker fatally injured while pinning off a spud

A maritime construction company has redesigned its barge spud system after a foreman was fatally injured aboard the barge June 26 in Fairfield, Conn.

Paul Rysz, 33, of Norwalk, Conn., died as a result of the accident in Pine Creek, the Fairfield Fire Department said. Rysz, an employee of Norwalk Marine Contractors Inc., was aboard the company’s uninspected barge during a project to replace pilings.

Rysz, who had over 10 years of experience with Norwalk Marine, was knocked into the tidal creek while pinning off a spud. Coworkers rescued him from the water, but Rysz had a severe head injury and was pronounced dead in a hospital a week later, the fire department said.

The barge crew and tugboat Tomcat were finishing their pile-driving for the day when the incident happened at 1503. Rysz was struck in the face just as a crane had lifted one spud out of the water and he was stowing it.

The fatal accident involving a spud pin occurred on this Norwalk Marine Contractors barge.

“He was actually pulling the pin to lower the spud,” said Dawn Kallen, chief of investigations at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound.

L.N. “Skip” Gardella, president of Norwalk Marine, said the tugboat captain was giving the commands to the crane operator and Rysz. Investigators are still probing the exact nature of the communications at the moment of the accident.

The foreman “didn’t have the pin out all the way that held the spud up,” Gardella said. “When the spud came down, it hit the bar and hit his jaw.”

The creek, which spills into nearby Long Island Sound, is three feet to seven feet deep, depending on the tide.

The Norwalk Marine crane operator points to the pin, as he shows investigators the site of the accident. He is standing at the same spot where the victim, Paul Rysz, stood before being knocked into the creek. Rysz later died of head injuries.

“The force of the accident threw the worker into the water,” the fire department’s report said. “(The) captain of the tugboat used to push the barge jumped into the water and helped the victim swim to a nearby dock. Another worker … helped pull the victim out of the water and onto the dock.”

Fire and rescue squads arrived at the floating dock and transported Rysz to Bridgeport Hospital. He was pronounced dead July 3.

Norwalk Marine has adjusted the barge’s pin placement to make it safer, Gardella said.

“The height of the spud well pocket was only two feet off the deck,” Gardella said. “Since then, we’ve raised them up to four feet, so you’re never bending down over them. When you’re pinning off a spud, the height of the pin should be high enough so that the man is not reaching over on top of it.”

Kallen said the Coast Guard investigation was still ongoing in early August. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also probing the accident.

Dom Yanchunas,/i>

By Professional Mariner Staff