Inspectors Still Baffled by Collapse of Superstructure

Unable to blame it on nature and unwilling to pin it on human error, safety inspectors Wednesday said they were still baffled by what caused a steel-and-wood superstructure to collapse under a new freeway overpass near Los Angeles International Airport.

Although no one was injured in the Tuesday afternoon accident, it did close a mile-long stretch of Imperial Highway in Westchester when tons of debris toppled onto the six-lane highway just before rush hour. The road, between La Cienega Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue, was scheduled to reopen today.

Originally, state inspectors and the general contractor theorized that the scaffolding might have been jarred loose by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that struck the central California coast at 2:10 p.m.--the time of the accident. But on Wednesday, officials backed away from that theory and offered none in its place. "We are really baffled by this," said Wes Johnson, Caltrans' senior bridge engineer.

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