Image: Border officials and emergency personnel look over the construction site where a scaffolding collapsed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego
Denis Poroy  /  AP
Border officials and emergency personnel look over the construction site where a scaffolding collapsed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego on Sept. 14. Three people were taken to hospitals after construction scaffolding collapsed on cars at the nation's busiest border crossing connecting San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.
updated 9/15/2011 7:44:14 AM ET 2011-09-15T11:44:14

Scaffolding collapsed on more than a dozen cars at the nation's busiest border crossing Wednesday, injuring 11 people and halting all traffic entering from Mexico for hours, authorities said.

A construction worker at the San Ysidro crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, was seriously hurt, said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. The others were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, including a pregnant woman, he said.

A section of scaffold installed to protect cars from overhead construction collapsed onto eight of the border crossing's 24 northbound vehicle lanes shortly before 11 a.m., officials said.

Thirteen of the lanes reopened at midnight, but there were no immediate plans to open other lanes Thursday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The scaffold left a mangled mess of wooden planks, metal supports and black tarpaulin atop 15 vehicles that had just passed through inspection booths.

"There were several vehicles completely covered in debris," said Frank Jaramillo, the director of San Diego's two border crossings for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Three people had to be extricated from cars, while the others walked away, Luque said.

Under investigation
The cause of the collapse was under investigation. An investigator from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was at the scene.

All U.S.-bound vehicle and pedestrian lanes were closed after the collapse, and travelers were directed to Otay Mesa about five miles east, CBP officials said.

Mexico-bound lanes remained open. Pedestrian traffic resumed nearly eight hours after the scaffolding.

The General Services Administration, which owns the ports of entry, was assessing the integrity of the remaining scaffold before deciding when San Ysidro's vehicle lanes would reopen.

Waiting times to enter the U.S. at Otay Mesa on Wednesday afternoon reached about 2 1/2 hours for motorists and two hours for pedestrians, about twice the normal delay, Jaramillo said.

About 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians enter the United States each day at the San Ysidro crossing.

Heightened border security after 9/11 has resulted in waits that can last hours during morning rush hour and other peak travel times.

The 30-year-old border crossing facility is undergoing a $577 million overhaul by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., based in Greeley, Colo.

Randy Barr, operations manager for the company, said that at the time the scaffolding collapsed, workers were removing plaster from the port of entry's administration building that will be demolished.

CBP initially said 17 travelers and construction workers were injured. Luque said the fire department examined 24 people at the scene, including 13 who were not injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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