Coast Guard Suspends Search For Missing Bridge Worker

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has suspended its search for a maintenance worker who fell off the Manns Habor Bridge Tuesday morning.

Authorities says Sydney Valesco was working for a contractor doing painting work below the bridge deck when he fell into the Croatan Sound. A co-worker jumped in to save Valesco, but that worker had to be rescued himself.

The Coast Guard ended the search at sunset Tuesday. They said based on information available, they cease searching when they don't think the missing person would still be alive.

The Dare County Sheriff's Office tells WITN News neither worker had life vests on.

The Department of Transportation says the two were employed by VHP Enterprises of Tarpon Springs, Florida and that life vests are required by workers on that job.

The DOT and the North Carolina Department of Labor are investigating the accident.


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A bridge maintenance accident has rescuers searching for one worker while another one was safely pulled from the Croatan Sound Tuesday morning. It is the second bridge accident in Eastern Carolina in the past week.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Dare County authorities are searching for Sydney Valesco who fell off the old Manns Harbor Bridge.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Jones says the accident happened around 8:00 a.m. in about the center of the three-mile long bridge. He says a co-worker jumped in the water trying to rescue Valesco. That co-worker was picked up about 15 minutes later by a Dare County boat.

The Coast Guard says three small boats, a 25-foot rescue boat from Oregon Inlet, divers from Dare County and a helicopter from Elizabeth City are all involved in the search.

The bridge is the old span which carries Highway 64 Business over the Croatan Sound.

The Dare County Sheriff's Office tells WITN News neither worker had life vests on.

The Department of Transportation says the two were employed by VHP Enterprises of Tarpon Springs, Florida. DOT Spokeswoman Jennifer Garifo says the company is painting the steel beams under the bridge. That work includes blasting lead paint.

Garifo says workers are required to wear life preservers on the project. She says the two men fell some 10 to 12 feet into the water.

The DOT and the North Carolina Department of Labor are investigating the accident.

Last Wednesday a construction worker was killed in Pitt County while working on the new Grimesland Bridge project. In that accident, a large metal concrete form fell from a crane and onto the worker.


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  • by Dennis Location: florida on Sep 1, 2010 at 02:11 PM
    I just got a job with VHP and i cant swim so I told the Super that I was scared and cant swim and he said go home he didnt even ask if I wanted a vest to wear. They are working on bridge in Labell Florida no one had a life vest on I am hoping he will give me a life vest so I can work again if not I will find something else.
  • by Anonymous Location: C on May 7, 2010 at 08:22 AM
    Has this man been found yet?
  • by Marcello Location: Rio de janeiro on May 1, 2010 at 03:55 PM
    Velasco was my brother in law. Most of his family lives in rio de janeiro, brazil. The family is totally lost not only due to the tragedy but also because of conflicting news. Regardless of company´s obvious negligence, all the family wants now is to find his body and it makes no sense for the coast guard have stopped search so soon. Please forward additional news to marcellosanto@hotmail.com. God bless.
  • by Joe Location: FL on Apr 30, 2010 at 03:33 PM
    Was talking to one of the worker on that job .He said the saftey belt were not given to any of the worker.And that there was not even a latter to go down undder the bridge. I blame the Q.C and the inspector.I used to be in the bussiness to as a worker seem lots of payoff for the inspector to turn his head.
  • by DCM Location: Manns Harbor on Apr 30, 2010 at 06:27 AM
    I was actually on the bridge directly after this happened that day. I saw the boats searching as hard as they could search. I felt so helpless being on the bridge and not being able to help them. All I could do was pray for their survival. It was very windy and rough that day. I can't imagine going through what that family is going through right now. My thoughts and prayers are with them throughout this difficult time. Also, as I came across the bridge this morning to work .. I noticed that ALL workers were wearing life vests. Kuddos to that! :)
  • by Anti-Terrorist Location: Greenville on Apr 29, 2010 at 08:14 AM
    BEACHBUM3 - That would not have anything to do with the fact that the NCDOT was exposed 5 years ago for one of the biggest fraud schemes in state history concerning inspector payoffs and contract kickbacks would it?? The deregulation was self inflicted because of the lack of ethical behavior in the DOT. The DOT lost credibility in telling others to follow rules which they followed only when it lined pockets. That said, the DOT seems to have been cleaned out and running a clean shop these days.
  • by Angel Location: Florida on Apr 28, 2010 at 06:39 PM
    As a friend of the family, I know that Sydney Valesco was a wonderful perso, with a good heart and very religious as are his wife and children. I am very sad and very sorry about this tragic loss of such a fine person and I hope the Coast Guard will be successful in their recovery efforts. The coworker who attempted to save him is a hero. I hope the company will support the family in their time of grief. Yet, this “accident” need not have occurred but for the negligence it seems on the part of the company. I hope the appropriate agency will look into the apparent lack of safety provisions as required by law. Where were the life vests? Where was the safety boat that was supposed to be at hand 24/7 just for accidents like this? These people are hard workers, risking their lives every day for us to have safe bridges.Please keep them all in your prayers.
  • by Vance on Apr 28, 2010 at 06:20 PM
    BEACHBUMB3:Once again take it easy guy before you have a blood vessel burst.If on a state job and private contractors and or workers do not have a reflective vest on,Dont have the traffic cones and or traffic barrels a certain feet apart and are not tapered just right they have the AUTHORITY to SHUT that job down right then.I know I have been there too.It dont take 40 years.Now I dont know about the NC rules and regulations about workers working on a bridge with or without a life vest,but it seems kind of stupid to me that any state inspector can shut a job down simply because one man dont have a reflective vest on or the traffic cones and barrels are just not setting just right.Then you have workers with no life jackets on working over water.That is past stupid.
  • by BEACHBUM3 on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:03 AM
    VANCE : HAVING AN INSPECTOR ON A HIGHWAY PROJECT IS MEANINGLESS UNLESS THAT INSPECTOR IS BEING ALLOWED TO HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ACTUALY DO AN PERFORM HIS DUTYS AN THAT BEING THE ACTUAL ENFORCEMENT OF THE STATE SPECEFICIATIONS FOR ROADS AN BRIDGES AN WITHOUT HIS/HER BEING ABLE TO ACTUALY ENFORCE THESE SPEC'S THEN THEY ARE TOTALY USLESS TO THE TAXPAYING PUBLIC THAT ARE PAYING THESE INSPECTORS SALARY'S FOR THEM TO BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY DO THEIR JOBS DUTY'S THANK YOU
  • by ve ve on Apr 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM
    yes its true that there should be more safety precauious but on serval times i seen dot workers at the site with them so why they didnt enforce safey standards
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