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Two dead in platform topple at Port Everglades

A platform scaffold toppled over at busy Port Everglades Friday morning, killing two workers and critically injuring a third after they fell several stories to the pavement, port authorities said.

Three Broward County Public Works employees were on the platform, called a scissor lift, conducting routine maintenance on a passenger bridge. The moveable bridge allows cruise ship passengers to disembark from berths at the port. There were no passengers on the bridge, which was at Terminal 1 at the time of the collapse.

Broward fire-rescue were summoned to the accident scene, at 1801 SE 18th St., Fort Lauderdale, about 11 a.m., shortly after the lift fell on its side, catapaulting the workers to the pavement, just short of the Intercoastal’s barrier wall, authorities said.

Two were pronounced dead, and a third worker was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center in critical condition.

"It's sad to have to talk about these type of things. The port is a very close knit family," said Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director Steve Cernak.

Authorities from OSHA were also expected at the scene to investigate. OSHA requires the use of fall protection equipment, in the form of guardrails or harnesses, anytime a fall of 6 feet or more is possible on a construction site.

The lifts are a type of mobile scaffolding made up of scissor-like joints that are mounted on a wheeled machine that powers a work platform up and down.

Scissor-lift accidents occur when the operator isn’t adequately trained, the load is too heavy for the lift or the operator moves the lift while the platform is extended, causing an imbalance.

Port Everglades is the largest port in Florida and one of South Florida’s economic powerhouses, providing access for international trade and cruise ships. It is considered the second busiest cruise port in the world and one of the nation’s leading container ports.

The accident happened a week after another mishap at the port. On March 6, a 91-foot barge stacked with cargo containers was offloaded after the barge had accidentally dumped 22 containers at sea.

In 2011, a man working at the port was killed when he was hit by a tractor-trailer while assisting a truck driver who had been offloading a container.

Port Everglades is undergoing three major capital improvement projects totaling more than $500 million to increase cargo business by adding five new berths, deepening its navigational channels to 50 feet and bringing intermodal freight rail on to port property. These improvements, which are expected to be completed by 2017, are estimated to create 7,000 new regional jobs and support 135,000 new jobs statewide when operating at full capacity.

Miami Herald staff writers Anthony Cave and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

This report will be updated as more information becomes available.