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Report: Big Dig company questioning warning

Officials at a Big Dig construction company have been unable to locate a memo a safety officer said he wrote in 1999 warning his superiors that portions of a tunnel’s ceiling could collapse, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Officials at a Big Dig construction company have been unable to locate a memo a safety officer said he wrote in 1999 warning his superiors that portions of a tunnel’s ceiling could collapse, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Boston Globe, which first reported on the memo Wednesday, cited a construction industry official it did not identify as saying that officials at Modern Continental Construction Co. were searching their files for the memo and taking other steps to determine whether it is authentic.

The Globe said it received the memo by mail on Tuesday bearing the signature of the worker, John J. Keaveney, and dated May 17, 1999. It outlined several concerns about the safety of the ceiling design in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel where a woman was killed July 10 when ceiling panels fell on her car.

The memo warns that “an innocent State Worker or member of the Public” could “be seriously injured or even worse killed as a result” of the ceiling design. It also questions “how this structure can withhold the test of time.”

The newspaper said the memo was sent to a Globe reporter without Keaveney’s knowledge, and he later verified he had written it.

“We continue to look at all aspects of this story,” The Globe’s editor, Martin Baron, said in a statement.

A Modern Continental spokesman declined to comment on the memo Friday, the newspaper said.

Keaveney has not responded to a message left at his home on Wednesday by The Associated Press for a story about the Globe’s original report.

Workers make repairs and upgrades to a tunnel in the Big Dig project, Tuesday, July 18, 2006, in Boston. Two Big Dig tunnels were closed for inspections and repairs after 12 tons of ceiling panels fell, killing 38-year-old Milena Del Valle as she and her husband drove through the tunnel July 10 on their way to the airport. (AP Photo/David L Ryan, Pool)David L. Ryan / POOL THE BOSTON GLOBE

The bolt-and-epoxy system used to hold up the concrete ceiling panels has been the focus of the collapse investigation involving Boston’s $14.6 billion highway project. Since the collapse, other documents have surfaced showing that there were questions over the years about the reliability of the ceiling bolts.

The newspaper’s construction industry source said Modern Continental is reviewing the chronology of the construction. The memo says Keaveney observed holes that had been drilled in the ceiling. But the construction industry source said records indicate that holes were not drilled into the ceiling of the connector until June — potentially calling into question the memo’s claims.

The Globe said Keaveney volunteered to speak with investigators from the attorney general’s office and the FBI who are probing the ceiling collapse and was interviewed on Friday. Edward Boyle, Keaveney’s lawyer, said he attended the meeting and had no reason to doubt Keaveney.

“The memo speaks for itself,” Boyle told the Globe. “He’s a hard-working man with a proven record of almost 15 years in the construction safety field.”