Construction Site Accident in Madera County May Leave Worker Paraplegic

construction site accidentsA freak accident at a construction site in the county of Madera left one ironworker grievously injured. The Fresno resident, working on a high-speed railway project was toppled over by a steel rebar structure he was fixing.

Location of the Incident

At the accident site, close to Avenue 7, east of Highway 99, work was being carried out to build an overpass above the proposed high-speed rail track. This new skyway was expected to reroute traffic north of the San Joaquin River, once the rail link became operational.

The victim was identified as Jerry Ouellette, 48, who was taken for emergency treatment to the Community Regional Medical Center, downtown Fresno. Oullette was employed by rail project sub-contractor, Martinez Steel. He was a member of the Ironworkers Union Local 155 and had a decade of experience in the industry, according to his nephew.

Family Member’s Account

His nephew, Sacramento-based Josh Escovedo, spoke to the media about the incident. He recounted that several men including his uncle, Ouellette, were working when the rebar’s harness gave way. This caused the entire rebar to fall on the men.

A co-worker spotted the danger and alerted the affected crew but Ouellette, who was nearest to the falling structure, couldn’t escape in time.

Escovedo learned that the rebar fell over Ouellette’s chest and lower body, which explained his injuries. Ouellette suffered multiple fractures, including broken ribs, vertebrae, arm, and collarbone, among others.

According to Escovedo, all of Ouellette’s ribs were fractured. In addition, he had a broken clavicle, arm, foot, along with tendon and ligament tears. Burst fractures were also evident in more than one of his vertebrae.

Concerns About Safety Lapses

Ouellette, a family man with three stepchildren and one grandchild, had to undergo spinal surgery. Escovedo said that the surgeons were almost certain that Ouellette’s injuries would leave him a paraplegic. He was concerned that the Rail Authority was not paying enough attention to safety because this was not the first time such an incident had occurred.

In a similar incident involving a rebar tower, in November, five Rail Authority employees were injured with two of them requiring hospitalization. He suspected that perhaps safety measures were inadequate and rules were being flouted.

For the time being, Escovedo said that the family was doing everything within its capacity to help Ouellette get well.

Watch YouTube Video: KCRA 3 News discusses the high-speed rail construction project in Madera County.

A freak accident at a construction site in the county of Madera left one ironworker grievously injured. The Fresno resident, working on a high-speed railway project was toppled over by a steel rebar structure he was fixing.

Cal/OSHA and Rail Authority React

California Occupational Health and Safety Agency (Cal/OSHA) confirmed that they received a notification about the incident the day after it occurred. According to a source, the accident happened when a crane was lifting a formatting wall. Rigging failure during this exercise culminated in the calamity.

Toni Tinoco, a spokesperson for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, reiterated that safety was very important for the high-speed rail program. Another spokesperson for the rail authority, Lisa Marie Alley, confirmed that an incident occurred at the construction site at Avenue 7.

Without releasing any details about the worker, she also stated that one person was injured and hospitalized due to the incident. Work at the site had resumed the next afternoon after a brief halt.

Inquiry Into the Incident

The State Department for Industrial Relations spokesperson, Frank Polizzi, clarified that Cal/OSHA had commenced an investigation with the worker’s employer Martinez Steel and Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons Joint Venture, the contractor. More contractors could come under the radar if necessary. Cal/OSHA had given notices to the concerned contractors about workplace safety lapses over the previous six months.

Both accidents (including the incident in November when a column toppled on five men) occurred on the 29-mile project running from Madera at the north to Fresno down south. Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons was the company responsible for construction along this stretch.

Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Sacramento

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney. Getting injured on the job can have devastating consequences. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in the workplace, please call to talk to one of our experienced injury lawyers at 916.921.6400 or 800.404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach me online on

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our client reviews on Avvo, Google, and Yelp, and our past cases on our Verdicts and Settlements page.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.10.20]

Photo by Yuri Kim on

:br cha [cs 755]

Client Reviews
"Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!" Alex & Dinah M.
"Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation." Beverly
"Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything." Annie T.
"Very professional. Great team, staff and service all around. Mr Smith was very honest, straight forward with his advice. He gives the word "attorney" an honest reputation. I will seek his council anytime, and would recommend him at the drop of a dime." Jeremy M.
"I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone." Shannon D.
"Edward Smith law offices provide competent, thorough, and personable help for victims of personal injury. When you first meet the staff you know you contacted the right office. This law office treats clients like people. I recommend this office to anyone seeking representation regarding personal injury." David M.