EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The sky grew dark, the wind was whipping around, and lightning was flashing nearby. Already soaked to the bone by the rain falling all around them on an outdoor deck of the unfinished Revel casino project in Atlantic City, Bryan Bradley and Joe Forcinito were getting spooked.
Forcinito, foreman of the crew pouring concrete, counted the flashes of lightning coming closer and closer: One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
"When we saw it that close, I knew we had to get out of there. I knew," Forcinito said. "I was getting scared."
Yet the buckets of concrete, with a quick-drying agent added to speed the process along, kept coming up from the ground.
"The buckets just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming," Forcinito said.
Dennis Lamond, a third worker, shared their fear.
"We were all scared, all afraid for our lives because of the storm," he said. "We kept working because we were told to."
Finally, the men made a decision: After they emptied one last bucket of concrete, they were walking off the job and seeking shelter, whether it meant getting into trouble or even fired.
"We should have done it a bucket earlier," Forcinito recalled.
Just then, a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky, striking the 800-foot-tall metal crane running along the side of the unfinished casino building. Bradley, who was gripping a metal bucket of concrete, was electrocuted. Forcinito and Lamond, who were working a few feet away, also were hit by the lightning and knocked down.
"All I could remember was trying to get out of the concrete," Forcinito said. "Even after I got hit, all I could think of was (Bryan). And whether he was alive."
Bradley was dead, shocked by unimaginable currents of electricity that surged off the crane. Forcinito and Lamond suffered lesser injuries but say they remain in pain eight months later.
On Wednesday, the two surviving workers and Bradley's widow, Carmen, filed lawsuits against two companies involved in the project, Tishman Construction Corp. of New York and Network Construction Co. of Pleasantville N.J., a Tishman subcontractor. The lawsuit alleges the companies knew or should have known that a severe lightning storm was moving into the area, yet they kept the workers on the job at mortal peril.
"When we were young children, we were told by our families, 'Don't go outside with an umbrella when there's lightning,'" said Paul D'Amato, the lawyer for Carmen Bradley. He said there were more than 1,000 documented lightning strikes in the area shortly before the men were struck at the Revel site.
John Gallagher, Tishman's vice president of public affairs, said the company cannot comment on pending litigation other than to say, "We were not cited or found to be at fault by any entity investigating the incident last year, including OSHA."
Network Construction did not immediately return a message left with its office in Pleasantville, just outside Atlantic City.
The men were working on the Revel project on Sept. 15, 2011, when the storm hit. Work had resumed several months earlier after the Revel project ran out of money and most of the job shut down.
D'Amato, in his lawsuit, claims the companies had ample warning that dangerous conditions were at hand, and should have taken workers off the job until the bad weather passed.
"Didn't supervisors look at the forecast?" added Mark Roddy, Lamond's attorney. "Couldn't they see the sky was crackling with lightning bolts? Nothing — certainly not a long-delayed multibillion-dollar casino project — is more important than human life."
Carmen Bradley said the construction companies were focused only on getting the job done as quickly as possible.
"My husband and his co-workers were made to work under dangerous working conditions with zero regard for their lives," she said. "I would like to address those responsible for my husband's death and ask them, if it had been their son or their father up on that roof that day would they have shut the job down? I believe the outcomes would have been much different."
Forcinito said the concrete workers had each other's backs on the job.
"We were like family and everybody looked out for everybody else," he said. "Except nobody outside our family cared that day about anything other than getting the job done. Instead of getting to safety, they offered us rain jackets. I was scared about the weather and told them I heard the forecast. They said get to work."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC