On June 6, 1956, about a year before the Mackinac Bridge opened to traffic, two men fell to their deaths while completing work on the bridge. They were the fourth and fifth fatalities that occurred during construction of the Mighty Mac.
According to Michigan Day by Day, the men were working on stringing a chain link fence catwalk from the north tower of the bridge when it snapped free.
“One man’s ankle caught in one of the folds, pinning him in place on top of the fencing,” Michigan Day by Day noted. “His ankle had been crushed, but he was alive. The other three workers were jolted and fell from their narrow platform. Two men fell to their death.”
The men were identified as 28-year-old Jack Baker and 28-year-old Robert Koppen. According to reports, it was the first day on the job for both men.
Three others died during construction on the bridge in the 1950s. According to reports, the others who died were:
- Frank Pepper, a diver who got “the bends” after ascending too quickly from the water. He died on Sept. 16, 1954. He was 46.
- James LeSarge died after losing his balance and falling 40 feet into a caisson. He was 26.
- Albert Abbott, who died after falling into the water while working on a beam. It wasn’t a long fall, and it was speculated that he suffered a heart attack. He was 40 years old.
All five workers who died helping make the bridge are memorialized on a plaque in Bridge View Park, on the bridge’s northern end.