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3 workers presumed dead in fall into swift river

A rescue official says three construction workers are presumed dead after falling from a highway bridge into the swollen Arkansas River.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three construction workers fell into the swollen Arkansas River from a work platform that collapsed Wednesday and were presumed dead.

The rescue operation turned into a recovery effort when there was no sign of the men for more than an hour after their fall, Little Rock Fire Capt. Jason Weaver said. Divers could not enter the water because the current was too swift.

Recovery crews hooked what appeared to be the fallen bridge scaffolding, but the structure weighed as much as 10,000 pounds, and officials decided to close northbound lanes on Interstate 430 so they could bring in a heavy-duty crane.

The platform was big enough to hold the men, two generators and a welding machine, Weaver said. "A lot of metal, a lot of weight," he said.

A fourth man was able to hold on and call for help, Pulaski County Sheriffs Office spokesman John Rehrauer said.

Central Arkansas Water utility spokeswoman Marie Crawford says the men worked for Renda Contracting Inc., which was installing 30-inch-diameter waterlines under and across the bridge.

Corey Wells, treasurer and controller for Renda Contracting of Roanoke, Texas, said the company was contacting the workers' families.