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Investigation underway

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/06) - Transportation officials are awaiting the outcome of an investigation into the death of an equipment operator on the Liard River Tuesday, before deciding if more stringent safety precautions are necessary while building the Mackenzie River ice crossing.

NNSL Photo/graphic

A back hoe chops a path in the ice for the Merv Hardie ferry to cross the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence. - NNSL file photo

In the meantime, construction of the Mackenzie River ice crossing near Fort Providence is continuing as normal and is expected to be completed by mid-December, according to Bob Kelly, communications director with the Department of Transportation.

Vehicle traffic across the Liard River was restricted to 3,000 kg from 10,000 kg following the death of James Alfred Isaiah, who worked for Rowes Construction. "We dropped it back yesterday as an extra precaution," said Kelly.

Isaiah died Tuesday when the machine he was using to clear snow on the crossing broke through the ice. His body was recovered by searchers on Wednesday.

Traffic on the crossing was also reduced to one lane and access from both sides of river is being controlled to allow vehicles to travel only one way at a time over the river.

Kelly said the crossing is safe and the precautions were instituted to make motorists feel more comfortable.

"What we've been told by the contractor is he was operating off the travel portion of the crossing," said Kelly.

He added because the actual crossing is maintained, flooded and thickened, they decided to keep the road open.

Kelly said since the Isaiah was not a GNWT employee no actions have been taken to change the way their employees operate ice crossings.

As to why the driver would have gone off the crossing, Kelly said he did not know. The accident is under investigation.