Construction worker dies in accident on Brazos River

POSTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 11:23am
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 10:12pm

A construction worker was killed and another injured while working on the new Baylor stadium Tuesday afternoon.

"It was just an unfortunate, tragic accident," said Waco Police Department Spokesman W.P. Swanton. "Our officers received a call of a possible drowning in the 1100 block of South University Parks."

As police officers responded around 4:00 p.m., Waco Fire Department, Baylor PD, and ETMC had also responded. Officers learned that two construction workers that had been working to build the pedestrian bridge that will span the river went into the water with a piece of construction equipment.

"As officers got to the scene, they were able to determine that two construction workers were working on a lift that was attached to a float or a dock," Swanton.

The two men were harnessed to a small movable man-lift type piece of equipment that was parked on top of a floating dock/barge. At some point the man-lift fell of the dock and into the water taking the two men with it, 16 feet into the Brazos River. One of the men was able to unfasten his safety harness from the lift, swim to the surface and then to the riverbank where he was assisted by other construction workers and pulled from the water.

"Unfortunately, the second individual, who we now know as Mr. Suarez couldn't undo his safety harness in time," said Swanton.

Four hours later, officials recovered the body of 55-year-old Jose Dario Suarez, of Manor, Texas, around 8:15 p.m. after search teams were called in to help. Morgan's Point Dive Team from Belton helped recover the body. He was still attached to the equipment with his safety harness and flotation devices.

"We knew initially that it was probably beyond the point for a rescue," said Swanton.

Justice of the Peace DeCluitt was called to the scene and pronounced Mr. Suarez deceased at 8:18 p.m. Suarez's body has now been sent to Dallas for autopsy. The other victim has been treated for hypothermia and was released from the hospital.

Waco P.D and Waco Fire were assisted by the Texas Game Wardens in the initial search for Mr. Suarez. Waco P.D. Chaplains, Victim Services and Crime scene assisted at the location as well.

Regarding the accident, Baylor University released the following statement: "Our thoughts go out to the Suarez family at this terribly sad hour," said Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr. "All of Baylor Nation extends our deepest sympathies as we remember in our prayers Jose Suarez and all those whom he loved."


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