Construction Worker Falls Off Throgs Neck Bridge While Changing Harness

Officials said he was part of a project to paint the bridge

Police divers searched the waters under the Throgs Neck Bridge for hours Friday after a construction worker fell off the span into the water, officials said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the man was near the middle of the bridge, preparing to start work on a painting project. He was changing his harness and the platform he was on gave way shortly after 8 a.m., officials said.

A relative identified the worker as John Massas, 30, a husband and father of three children.

He was briefly spotted in the water after he fell, but has not been seen since, Kelly said.

The Coast Guard had boats on scene and a helicopter to assist police and fire rescuers. After several hours of scanning the waters, the search turned to a recovery operation.

According to the Coast Guard, the water temperature Friday was about 49 degrees.

Massas was working for NUCO Painting, a subcontractor hired by general contractor El Sol.

NUCO said in a statement that Massas "was a good man and a hard worker. This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to this friends and family."

El Sol has worked on other MTA bridge rehab projects. In September 2007, El Sol was working on the approach to the Verrazano Bridge when a 48-year-old worker fell to his death.

Federal records show El Sol was cited and fined for two safety violations in that case; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the company did not provide the victim with proper fall protection equipment.

El Sol did not return a call seeking comment.

Chris Glorioso contributed to this story

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