The 55-degree temperature of the Tennessee River might have contributed to the death of a 31-year-old construction worker who fell into it on Monday, authorities say.
The body of Abimael Contreras Martinez, of Morrison, Tenn., was found by rescuers and divers about 10:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday. Martinez was working on the new bridge on U.S. Highway 41 over the river when he plunged in Monday afternoon.
Tennessee Department of Transportation officials and local authorities said Martinez fell as he stepped from one barge to another.
Rescuers "spotted his body about 60 feet deep in the water, about 150 feet from where he fell in," Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said Wednesday morning.
Martinez was an employee of one of subcontractors working on the bridge replacement project alongside the now-closed Marion Memorial Bridge, he said.
According to the family and witnesses, Martinez couldn't swim and his life preserver came off when he fell in, Burnett said. The sheriff said some rescue workers speculated that the cold water may have contributed to his death.
The sheriff said family members were on the scene throughout the search, and officials tried to keep them up to date.
Martinez's body was taken to Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn., according to officials.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...