I love to see what humanity is capable of building. But with heavy machines and structures comes the potential for big accidents. Every safety regulation is written in blood. That’s why any oil rig, factory, or construction site should respect the hallowed words, “safety first.” As an engineering expert witness, I sometimes work on cases involving construction accidents like the deadly structure collapse at a high school near Fort Worth in 2015.
Argyle High School Construction Accident
The collapse killed Julio Ledesma and injured three of his coworkers. The men worked for Northstar Construction and Warnick Metal Building Erectors. They were building an athletic facility that was paid for by a $45 million bond for Argyle High School.
In my work as an engineering expert witness, I investigate many kinds of accidents to determine the cause, and then provide my services as an expert witness to explain it to the court in layman’s terms.
While I was not one of the investigators on this case, the video above and the citation that followed the incident make it clear what happened.
This structure was a pre-built steel design made to be assembled on site. If you’re even a little familiar with architecture, you’ll notice a distinct lack of cross bracing between the steel beams. There should be diagonal cables or beams between the rafters and columns to provide stability and keep joints square. Without them, the steel frames are essentially balancing. In this case, the strong winds that day (20+ mph), or perhaps contact from one of the lifts, could have been sufficient to make that structure lean…and fall.
Frankly, I’m amazed they got as far as they did without cross bracing.
This tragedy should never have happened. When companies think “money first” rather than “safety first,” this is the result. With 15 workers on site, any of whom could have noticed the problem if it were an oversight, I hesitate to even call it an “accident.” Warnick has a history of improper work—it’s an attempt to cut corners to reduce costs and speed up construction.
Safety, or the lack thereof, is part of the culture of a construction company. It shows when safety is emphasized from the top all the way down through the work site. In this case, someone made the call to skip important steps for the sake of expediency.
Engineering Expert Witness in Fort Worth
An engineering expert witness helps cases by proving the cause of a mechanical or structural failure. While we can’t go back and prevent accidents like this from occurring, we can learn from them and hold the responsible parties accountable.