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CAMPBELL (FRENCH ISLAND), Wis. - A construction worker suffered life-threatening injuries after plunging an estimated 40 to 50 feet off a bridge in La Crosse Wednesday morning.

Tri-State Ambulance spokesman Tom Tomstrom says the 19-year-old worker fell off the bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River, and landed in ametal cofferdam. Rescuers had to use boats to reach the victim, who was put into a basket and lifted with a crane. He was then transported to Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.

"I think everything went as smooth as things could go," reflected Assistant Campbell Fire Chief Gary Brauer. "It was a long, tedious job, the conclusion came to a successful end."

Brauer said the trauma to the victim appeared severe, and the prognosis is uncertain.""As of right now, all we can do it wait, and see what happens with the victim."

The worker was part of a five-person crew installing concrete forms for construction of a pier. His employer, Burnsville based Ames Construction, issued a statement expressing concern for the injured worker and his family.

At the time of the statement, early Wednesday afternoon, the company said its worker was in surgery, butoffered no information on his identity or condition.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) stopped construction on that area of theproject while investigators look into what happens.

"Right now our immediate concern is the health and welfare of the injured worker," said Mark Anderson, MnDOT project manager. "Work on Pier 2 has temporarily stopped while the incident is being investigated, but work on the rest of the project is continuing. There is no impact to traffic on the construction site. This was the first lost-time incident on the project."

Crews constructed the cofferdam as part of the new bridge project. No word at this point what factors may have led to the accident.

Wikipedia defines a cofferdam as "a temporary enclosure built within, or in pairs across, a body of water and constructed to allow the enclosed area to be pumped out, creating a dry work environment for the major work to proceed. Enclosed coffers are commonly used for construction and repair of oil platforms, bridge piers and other support structures built within or over water."

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