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Boots a factor in four workers’ drowning

Date Posted: 2009-08-27

An investigation continues into the deaths of four inspectors one week ago, with the boots they were wearing at least a contributing factor to their being swept away by flood waters in downtown Naha City.

The four men, part of a six-man team inspecting a bridge when flash flooding swept five of them away, were wearing long waterproof boots as they conducted the inspection. The sixth man was on the bridge and was not in any danger as the heavy rains triggered flash flooding that quickly filled the river bed in only minutes.

Police investigators say the four men who were swept down the river were wearing the long rubber boots, while the fifth man was not. He was also pushed down river, but managed to escape the waters. The bodies of the four who drowned were recovered last Thursday. An official from the company that manufactured the boots cautioned they are “very dangerous to use, if one falls down into the river or deep place, because if water comes inside the boots, the person cannot move at all.”

The boots were worn, an official say, on order of a consultant with the Tokyo contractor company’s foreman. He was one of the four who drowned. The other three dead men were employees of a Tomigusuku City construction company operating under a subcontract with the original contractor. The subcontractor company president says “we were told by the main contractor’s foremen that we had to provide long boots for the job, so we bought them one day before the research job.”

The men had been conducting a research investigation on the bridge structure and its ability to withstand an earthquake.

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