Legislation Would Honor Victims of 1972 Arroyo Seco Bridge Collapse with Memorial

Published : Wednesday, August 15, 2018 | 3:03 PM

The six workers who died in 1972 while building the Foothill 210 Freeway bridge over the Arroyo Seco in West Pasadena would be memorialized if State lawmakers approve a resolution announced by Pasadena-area State Assemblyman Chris Holden.

The six – including a Pasadena resident – died when freshly poured concrete collapsed a 60-foot section of the wood and steel scaffolding a hundred feet above them and buried them on October 17, 1972.

The collapse also injured 21 more workmen, six of them critically.

Rescue workers, about 500 of them, worked overnight to locate the missing workers, using jackhammers to cut through the concrete which had hardened and buried at least three of the victims.

Holden’s legislation, ACR 250, seeks to designate the North Arroyo Boulevard Overcrossing in Pasadena, just south of Devil’s Gate dam, as the “Arroyo Seco Victims Memorial Overpass.” Specifically, the resolution honors the six men who lost their lives as a result of the Foothill Bridge collapse in 1972 and the pain of their friends, families, and loved ones.

“This bridge collapse caused an unexpected tragedy that created intense pain for families of those who were injured or died as a result,” Holden said in sponsoring the resolution. “Naming the overcrossing of the Arroyo Seco honors the victims and may bring a sense of peace to their families.”

ACR 250 also requests the state’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to determine the cost of appropriate signage showing the special designation and to erect the signs through donations from non-state sources.

One of several persons who testified in Sacramento in support of ACR 250 was Rafael Gonzales, son of the late Hector Delgado Gonzales, one of the workers who died during the collapse.

“The sacrifice of my father Hector Gonzalez Delgado and his five coworkers will forever be known and appreciated by all those who utilize Highway 210,” Gonzales said. “Thanks to Assemblymember Holden and his staff, AB 250 will memorialize these men.”

Gonzales was a Pico Rivera resident.

The others who died during the collapse were Jesus Quinonez of Pasadena, Richard Calleros of Santa Ana, Frank Scharf of Uplands, Robert Queenan of Alhambra, and James Glass of Los Angeles.

After the accident in 1972, state officials found the firm that was building the bridge, Polich-Benedict Construction, had been involved in two out of seven bridge collapse incidents in the previous five years – one in 1969 when temporary scaffolding supporting an uncompleted Ventura Freeway crossing failed, and another in 1970 when tons of debris fell to the bottom of a transition road between the San Gabriel River and San Bernardino freeways, crushing a man to death.

Looking into the company’s poor safety record, the State Assembly Select Committee on Industrial Safety conducted public hearings into the falsework failure incident, which was also investigated by the state Division of Industrial Safety and the state Division of Highways.

Around 2005, workers hired to help in an Arroyo Seco restoration project started removing three 150-ton slabs of concrete under the Foothill Freeway bridge as these were an eyesore and were causing faster erosion along unprotected stretches of the riverbed.

One of the theories prevailing then was that the slabs were part of the debris that rained down on the workers during that October 1972 collapse.