Joseph Arrants, who lost his life last week building the new Highway 520 bridge, enjoyed hard work and heights, his family says.
Joseph Arrants, the carpenter fatally injured last week at the construction site for the new Highway 520 bridge, told his sisters that whenever he worked at heights, he felt a bit closer to God.
He was a foreman at the edge of the east high-rise, where his team built concrete segments over the shore of Lake Washington.
Arrants liked to playfully bearhug co-workers. He would lead pre-shift stretching exercises and sing Christian songs, said his nephew and co-worker DeVanté Botello.
“He was very well liked on his job site, and by his local union,” said United Brotherhood of Carpenters spokesman Ben Basom in Portland.
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Thursday afternoon, for reasons still being investigated, Arrants fell 60 to 70 feet and landed on a hard surface. He died at Harborview Medical Center. His name was released Monday by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Bridge contractors Kiewit-General-Manson held safety meetings and resumed limited operations at the construction site Monday, said spokesman Tom Janssen.
The 34-year-old Arrants, of Burien, leaves behind a wife, Heather; children, Annalise, 5, and Preston, 4, and five sisters.
By early Monday evening, a GoFundMe account set up to assist his family listed 255 donors who had contributed $23,288 and shared their memories of Arrants.
“It [the response from people] was overwhelming. We knew that he was awesome, and bubbly, and tried to help somebody. You really appreciate how much he was able to touch people and better their lives,” said niece LaVonna Houston.
Arrants became interested in carpentry when he was a boy. His grandfather, John Duarte Botello, a carpenter, let the boy pound nails during a homebuilding project, his sisters said. Later at Evergreen High School in White Center, a baseball coach invited Arrants to join him on small contracting jobs.
Arrants entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but returned home late in the first year. He and Heather married and worked on church missions in Mexico.
He became a journeyman carpenter while building the 510-foot-high east tower of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge span, DeVanté Botello said.
Carpenters there worked inside a giant square form, nicknamed the “bird cage.” These wrapped around each of the rising columns, forming a mold where concrete was poured. After each segment hardened, workers pulled on long wrenches to loosen several temporary bolts, allowing the entire frame to be jacked higher for the next pour.
“Joe does not know what fear is,” Botello said.
“It’s a back-breaker, and you’ve got to attack it full strength, all day long,” Botello said about his uncle’s stories. They would start at 2:30 a.m. and go 14 hours some days, returning to shore tired and giddy, he said.
Recently at the Highway 520 job site, Arrants operated a blue machine called a segmental form traveler. It takes a 16-foot step beyond the edge of the bridge, every six days or so, Botello said.
At each stop, workers build forms, pour concrete and install steel tendons inside the new segments.
Workers must be harnessed or protected from falls of 6 feet or higher, the union’s Basom said.
“Kiewit does have a pretty strong record for safety on its projects,” he said.
Government records show no safety violations on the fixed bridge section, but four violations in the barges and pontoons. One worker injured a leg last year.
The family has retained attorney Timothy Acker, of Gig Harbor, who said Monday he hasn’t yet gathered enough facts to discuss possible causes for the fall. Potential equipment failure is one question to consider, he said.
The crew led by Arrants was making rapid progress, his nephew said, so Kiewit was sending him to Honolulu next month, to build bridge segments for light-rail trackway.
Sound Transit has built similar bridges in Tukwila and SeaTac.
Co-workers appreciated Arrants so much that on Sunday morning, a dozen people showed up at his Burien home to replace windows, wallboard a basement wall and do other home remodels that had never been finished.
According to his sisters, a private service will be held.