JSO: Man who drowned in St. Johns River was not wearing life vest

Contractor suspends bridge-widening project following tragedy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A construction worker who drowned in the St. Johns River after he fell off a barge was not wearing a life jacket, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the death of Stanley Cooper, 51. Following the tragedy, Archer Western, the contractor that was hired to widen the bridge, suspended the project.

According to the police report, a co-worker threw two life rings and a floating vest into the ocean in an attempt to save Cooper. A second worker heard Cooper screaming and noticed he wasn't wearing a vest.

Witnesses told police Cooper went under before reaching any of the lifesaving devices, the report said.

News4Jax contacted the Atlanta-based Archer Western to learn more about its safety procedures. It wasn't clear if the company ensures its workers are following OSHA rules, which include having them wear a life vest at all times.

RELATED: Divers recover body of man who fell off barge

OSHA records show the company had several safety violations in the past 10 years, including in Feb. 2017, when two workers were killed in Miami after a concrete barrier fell. The company was fined and is contesting that ruling.

News4Jax is also waiting to hear back from the Florida Department of Transportation, which contracted the company.

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