Bridge worker presumed dead after fall into Columbia River

Bridge worker presumed dead after fall into Columbia River
The Lewis and Clark Bridge (KATU photo).

LONGVIEW, Wash. – A bridge worker who fell from the Lewis and Clark Bridge into the Columbia River is presumed dead, a spokesman with the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office said.

The man was identified as 40-year-old Charles William "Bill " Wiley, Jr. of Mississippi.

The company that employed the crew, Odyssey-Geronimo JV, released a statement saying they are cooperating with investigators and their hearts and prayers go out to Wiley's family.

A fellow construction worker called 9-1-1 at around 11:30 a.m. Sunday to report that Wiley fell from the bridge and was missing.

Wiley was part of a painting crew that was working on the bridge. He fell 210 feet into the river.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies began to search the river for his body. Local tug boat operators and recreational boaters also helped with the search.

Divers came to help, but said they could not go into the water because the section of the river was too dangerous. The river is more than 40 feet deep in that section, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rozenzweit.

The search was suspended at 2:15 p.m. and Wiley was presumed drowned.

Bridge workers told deputies that Wiley was working on a platform directly under the bridge when he fell.

Deputies said there was nothing at the site where he fell from that gave any indication on how or why his safety equipment did not stop him from falling.

Fellow workers described Wiley as very safety-conscious and experienced at bridge work.

KATU's Dan Cassuto contributed to this story.