MTA: Search For Construction Worker At Throgs Neck Bridge Now Recovery Mission

Officials: John Massas, 35, Was Likely Wearing 'Parachute Harness'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Officials say what started as an intense search for a construction worker who fell from the Throgs Neck Bridge Friday morning became a recovery mission by late afternoon.

The subcontractor was working mid-span on a platform beneath the roadway of the bridge around 8 a.m. when he slipped and fell to the water below, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell: Still No Sign Of The Body

The Coast Guard spent hours searching the waters without success. CBS 2’s Rachel Stockman later spoke to distraught family members.

John Massas, 35, was a subcontractor with Nuco painting out of Islandia. His three young children had just been dropped off at school when he plunged more than 100 feet.

A massive search effort followed — with police choppers up above and Coast Guard boats with divers on standby scouring the water, causing traffic to back up on the bridge for hours. Officials said Massas was working underneath the bridge when he slipped.

SEE: Photos Of The Search From Chopper 880

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports

Those who knew him well said Massas loved spending time with his family

“He was very brave. He was not a person that gets scared,” mother-in-law Carmen Gonzalez said.

Shortly after his fall rescue crews recovered his hard hat

“The contractor may have been preparing to paint the bridge. We have information that he was adjusting the safety harness or changing a safety harness when he fell,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Bridge painter Spiros Feggaros worked with Massas on a different project.

“Actually, my friends called me because I do exactly the same job. They called me because they wanted to know it wasn’t me in the water,” Feggaros said.

He showed Stockman what he called a “parachute harness.” It was very similar to the one Massas would have been using Friday morning. Massas’ mother-in-law told Stockman that he was a father of two daughters, 13 and 7, and a 5-year-old son who he called “John John.” Massas met his wife, Vanessa, when they were just 12. They had been sweethearts ever since.

“He liked to be around his family all the time,” Gonzalez said.

Painter Spiros Feggaros shows the type a safety harness used by workers on the Throgs Neck Bridge - Mar 30, 2012 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

Painter Spiros Feggaros shows the type a safety harness used by workers on the Throgs Neck Bridge - Mar 30, 2012 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)

The accident is under investigation by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ Health and Safety Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the NYPD and the Office of Emergency Management.

The Throgs Neck Bridge links the Bronx and Queens where the East River meets the Long Island Sound.  The work being done on the bridge is part of a $25 million, two-year structural steel rehabilitation project.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

  • Stephanie Suarez

    I have known John, we call him John boy basicly my whole life. He is, not was a great man, a hard working father and husband, and a very dear friend. We are not giving up hope. We believe that he is sitting somewhere waiting for them to find him. We don’t want to believe in the worst. He is to loved to be lost, he is to needed to leave us. Please keep praying for him to be found. Thank you

  • Tom Tom

    Call it what you will…but at the end of the day a man has more than likely died in a tragic accident. Someone lost their son, father, husband, brother, friend, colleague….this man was loved – PRAY for him, and for those he leaves behind.

    Everyone else….play the blame game on your own time.

    • Scott

      I appreciate what you said here. Certainly puts things in perspective. I don’t even drive over that bridge it’s so incredible and overwhelming. You have to admire a man (or women) who can work at those heights and maintain at all times, a sense of what you are doing. very dangerous. My heart goes out to his family, friends and his counterparts on the job.

    • Thor's Hammer

      well said tom. it is a tragedy. 3 children without a dad, a wife without her husband. coworkers who shared lunch, coffee, sports talk, etc. that knock on the door or phone call with news that changes your life forever. my deep condolences to the family, especially the children. for them the question why will never be answered satisfactorilly.

  • Nancy

    It is protocol for workers to *WEAR* a harness when they work underneath but the TBTA would not confirm whether the man who fell had one on.

    • Uncle Jimmy

      Actually, the worker had asked his supervisor for a harness before he went up on the bridge; but his supervisor declined his request because the $12.99 cost for the harness would have had to come out of a TBTA executive’s pension, and they couldn’t have that.

      • Shelma

        Where do you come up with this??? My husband was working with him on his crew and they ABSOLUTELY have harnesses! Don’t speak on somethng if you don’t have the facts because people may actually believe you. This is no conspiracy or topic to debate, it is a tragic accident simply becuase this is a very dangerous job on which some accidents cannot be avoided.

        • Vickie

          My prayers go out to his family and that your husband is safe at work everyday. Most days we wake up and dont want to go to our jobs, this man was killed at work, just a horrific way to die…. I just hope it was fast and he wasnt in fear

  • Billy Bathgate

    I’ve driven over the The Throgs Neck Bridge many times, and it a gorgeous bridge but very intimidating. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to fall off it, and then have emergency crews try fish you out.

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