When Rita McCauley received the call April 30 at
work from her sister-in-law, Pam Cox, she feared the worst. McCauleys
brother, Roger Cox, a welder, had been severely injured while working
on the Milton-Madison Bridge and was being flown via a medical helicopter
to the University of Louisville Hospital.
McCauley, who works as a nurse at the Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital
in New Albany, Ind., rushed over to the hospital and arrived before the
helicopter landed. Soon, family members began showing up. They met with
the doctor and learned that their beloved brother was in a coma and being
kept alive on a ventilator.
He never recovered. He was taken off life support three days later and
died Thursday, May 3, at age 50.
courtesy of Rita McCauley
and Pam Cox of Austin, Ind.,
spent 14 years together,
the last four married.
Cox was one of six children who grew up in Scottsburg, Ind. He did not
graduate high school but later earned his G.E.D.and learned to weld. He
already had a knack for fixing things, especially old cars and trucks.
Roger loved to fish and gig frogs and hunt mushrooms. And he loved animals,
most recently nursing an injured squirrel back to health.
He loved anything outdoors, said Ronnie Cox, 47, Rogers
younger brother. Everybody loved Roger. He made everybody laugh.
And he could fix anything.
Ronnie said his older brother was not afraid of heights and spent 20 years
working as a union welder, many times climbing cell phone towers and water
towers to do repair work and change light bulbs.
He wasnt afraid to climb on those towers; he was fearless,
Roger and his wife, Pam, 41, lived in Austin, Ind., with their daughter,
McKenzie, 11. Pam works as a housekeeper at Hampton Inn in Scottsburg.
The two have been together for 14 years, and married the last four.
Roger was working with his friend, Ron Mann of Henryville, Ind., to restore
a 1971 Camaro. Mann now plans to finish the job and give the car to Coxs
daughter when she is old enough to drive.
Roger loved old trucks; he could get anything running, Ronnie
McCauley recalled how Roger liked to grow his hair long and then have
her braid it. Then he would have me cut it off and he would hang
it from the mirror of his pickup. He was proud of his long hair because
the rest of the boys went bald, she said, laughing.
by Don Ward
co-worker inscribed Roger Lee
Coxs name on one of the temporary
towers for the bridge project.
Roger had two older brothers, Tom, 56, in Scottsburg, and Tim, 56, in
Georgia, and another sister, Vicky, 54, in Scottsburg.
Their mother, Joyce, died 10 years ago but their father, 77-year-old T.C.,
resides in Scottsburg. The family has a large extended family of nieces
According to family members, Roger loved his job, and he loved working
on the project to replace the Milton-Madison Bridge. In fact, he was pictured
on the front cover of the April edition of RoundAbout, standing in his
lift bucket high in the air welding the temporary ramp connecting the
bridge on the Milton, Ky., side of the Ohio River. Hes the one on
the left, with his helmet up.
He was proud to be working on the new bridge. He loved that bridge;
he called it HIS bridge, said McCauley, 55. He said they should
put his name on it.
It is now. A few days following his death, Coxs co-workers mounted
a sign on the downstream temporary pier that faces the traffic with his
name and the date of his death. Roger Cox, May 3, 2012.
Its still there and perhaps will remain until the temporary bridge
supports come down, sometime next year.
Meantime, Coxs family is still awaiting the results of two accident
investigations one by Walsh Construction Co. and another by Indiana
Occupational Safety and Hazard Agency.
Family members say they have their own ideas about what happened, after
having spoken with Coxs coworkers about the accident. Apparently,
Cox was operating a lift bucket and for some reason it malfunctioned and
his head was pinned between a rail on the bucket and the steel beam of
the bridge. The pressure to his neck cut off the circulation to his head.
He was found to be unconscious by his coworkers. The death certificate
later listed the cause as anoxic brain damage, essentially a lack of oxygen
reaching the brain.
Ironically, Coxs death mirrors the deaths of two bridge workers
killed in 1929 during construction of the original Milton-Madison Bridge.
Legend has it that one of the workers who died was buried alive inside
one of the concrete piers. But that is purely legend. No one is buried
inside a pier.
One Vang Construction Co. sand hog, however, was buried in
sand up to his armpits and his internal organs crushed when the air lock
chamber beneath the Pier 7 caisson that he and six others were working
in collapsed, according to an Madison Courier article published Feb. 18,
1929. The others escaped death by quickly climbing out of the hole just
But Earl Kelley, 34, of Leitchfield, Ky., did not escape. He was trapped
An air blow caused the accident, the article says. The men
were working under 35 pounds of pressure and the cutting edge of the caisson
had been sunk to the depth of 74 feet below pool stage of the river. One
sand hog explained that they had been on duty for only 30 minutes when
the air pressure was released slightly and the air found its way under
the downstream tube through which the excavation process was conducted.
The caisson suddenly dropped 14 inches.
The sand hogs rushed for the small tube through which they had entered
the working chamber. Kelley was working in the downstream corner at the
time of the air blow. But as he ran by the big tube he was caught in a
wild air current.
Kelleys body was thrown against the steel tube and his feet caught
beneath it. As the air escaped from the chamber, the caisson dropped three
feet, causing the chamber to fill quickly with water and sand.
When Kelleys coworkers went back into the air lock a few minutes
later, the chamber was dry and they found him stuck in the sand, dying.
Only his head and shoulders were visible above the sand. They pulled his
body out of the sand. The coroner later determined that he had been crushed
and drowned. He was later buried in his familys cemetery in Leitchfield.
He was married with five small children.
A second Vang Construction Co. worker, Richard Thomas, 35, of Louisville
was severely burned and later died at Kings Daughters Hospital
after his clothes caught on fire while making pier repairs. He also had
been working on Pier 7, which, according to Jefferson County Public Library
research archivist Janice Barnes, later became known as the voo-doo
pier in later stories and legend that she has read and heard over
The legendary voo-doo Pier 7 today has been re-numbered by
the Walsh Construction Co. engineers as Pier 4 and is the
second pier out in the Ohio River coming from the Kentucky side. It has
been strengthened and rehabilitated to hold the south end of the new truss
section that was lifted into place in late June.
The Milton-Madison Bridge Replacement Project, meanwhile, will wind down
sometime early next year and the new bridge will open to traffic then.
In time, Roger Coxs name may be forgotten, but the legend of his
death will likely survive the times, just as the legend of those two earlier
deaths have done.
And while it may always be known simply as the Milton-Madison Bridge,
perhaps an asterisk should be added to say: Roger Coxs Bridge.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.
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