Witness to O'Donnell Park Accident Testifies at Trial
Fom JSOnline October 17, 2013:
An eyewitness to the 2010 O'Donnell Park fatality said Thursday she watched from across Lincoln Memorial Drive as a huge concrete slab broke loose and fell, then she ran to aid the survivors in the chaotic aftermath.
Reanne Bagemehl said the upper left corner of the slab over the O'Donnell parking garage exit detached first, then the entire panel tilted forward and landed face down on the driveway.
Part of the upper left corner of the panel crumbled as it broke loose, Bagemehl testified, during a civil trial over who is to blame for the accident.
"The left-hand corner slipped and started to crumble a lot," she said. "Moments later, it started to collapse."
She said there was a loud rumble when the panel broke loose and agreed she heard a scraping sound.
Bagemehl, who now works as a nursing assistant, was a 16-year-old high school student who was attending Summerfest the day of the O'Donnell accident.
It took 3 to 5 seconds for the panel to fall, Bagemehl said. The panel weighs more than 13 tons.
The timing is crucial to damage claims by the victims. Later testimony is expected to focus on whether there was enough time for fear of dying to register before the panel struck. Expert witnesses differed on that point, in pretrial depositions.
Bagemehl said she ran first to Amy Wosinski, whose lower leg was hit by the slab. A nurse who was passing by urged Bagemehl to go to Eric Wosinski, who suffered a broken leg and gash to his head.
She said Eric was covered with blood, but it was from his 15-year-old friend Jared Kellner, who was crushed by the panel and died instantly. She tried to calm down Eric by asking him simple questions, Bagemehl said.
Steven Wosinski, Amy's husband and Eric's dad, was "extremely shocked and frightened," Bagemehl said. "He was devastated that Jared didn't make it," she said.
Steven Wosinski testified Wednesday that he saw fear in the eyes of Eric and Jared in the moment before the panel hit the pavement.
By the time the injured Wosinskis were taken away from the scene, workers were using a jackhammer to break up part of the fallen slab, Bagemehl said.
Bagemehl, now 19, said she has become friends with the Wosinskis since the accident.
The Wosinski and Kellner families are suing Advance Cast Stone, the company that made and installed dozens of huge decorative concrete slabs for the O'Donnell structure, and Milwaukee County.
In other testimony Thursday, John A. Cliffe, the project manager for the O'Donnell construction, said project plans called for four top connectors to mount the panels.
Only two connections were used and they were done by a different method than project specifications called for, according to lawyers for the families and an engineering consultant's report done for the county.
Cliffe also agreed that Advance faced penalties of $1,000 a day for completing the project late and that if the firm had been forced to remake some of the panels that might have caused a big delay.
Cliffe, now retired, worked for J. H. Findorff & Son on the O'Donnell project, which was finished in 1992. The Findorff firm was hired by the county to manage the $30million project. The company paid an undisclosed sum to settle claims it also was at fault in the accident.
Attorneys for Advance said in their opening statement Wednesday that lack of maintenance to O'Donnell by the county and vehicles hitting and scraping the panel were to blame for its collapse.