August 18, 2022 - 10:00am to 2:30pm

The Structural Engineers Association of Illinois is pleased to announce the SEAOI Failure Webinar. These four presentations from industry leaders will focus on examining various structural failures and the things that contributed to them. 

A Series of Unfortunte Events

Ross J. Smith

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

The role of structural designer is rife with complexity from early in the schematic concept phase until after final construction completion. Crafting a reliable design while making architects’ dreams into stable reality, navigating ill-suited sites, maintaining restrictive budgets, and meeting aggressive schedules is an increasingly normal project challenge. Beyond these normal variables are myriad other critical events, often outside of the structural designer’s control and purview, which can contribute to eventual structural failures. This presentation will feature case studies highlighting real world structural failures in which mishaps during stages of the design procurement and execution process including - given/provided information, existing surrounding conditions, design assumptions, code selection/application, shop drawings, fabrication, material delivery, erection sequence, and Owner use - significantly contributed to structural failure.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify basic steps of structural design process
  • Recognize information gaps in the structural design process
  • Understand examples of how gaps can inhibit successful completion of construction

Arecibo Observatory, Auxiliary Main Cable Socket Failure Investigation

Jonathan C. McGormley

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

This presentation will discuss the original auxiliary main cable failure of the Arecibo Observatory located in Puerto Rico that occurred in August 2020. The Arecibo Observatory was originally designed for research in the principal areas of ionospheric studies; solar, planetary, and lunar studies; and outer space studies and later, the focus of the observatory also turned to the study of near-Earth objects for NASA as part of a 1994 congressional mandate to assess the impact hazard of space objects on Earth. Opened on November 1, 1963 at a cost of $9.3 million, the observatory was, at the time, the world’s largest radar-radio telescope with the primary reflector having a horizontal aperture of 1000 feet, reportedly making it sixteen times more powerful than the largest fixed-dish radar-radio telescope in operation at the time.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the structural elements of the Arecibo telescope
  • Interpret the analytical and laboratory test data
  • Assess the importance of creep in cable socket design

Break from 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM

Charte River Bridge Collapse Investigation

Sebastian Mendes and Liling Cao

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Forensics investigation of the collapse of a steel truss vehicular bridge that spanned over a river in Colombia. The two opposing theories of collapse initiation included failure of a critical bridge connection versus vehicles initially impacting the truss members. The investigation included review of existing available design drawings, analysis of photos taken at the collapse site by others, and structural analysis of collapse mechanisms. The main challenge was to determine the cause of failure with no access to post-collapse evidence on site.  Complicacy in this investigation involved accurately capturing the effect of multiple retrofits in the steel truss, accommodating the traffic conditions, and vehicle impact on the structure to determine the collapse progression.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how analysis results obtained from global computational models can be incorporated into local models for detailed analysis.
  • Understand how potential collapse mechanisms are identified and substantiated by analytical evidence.
  • Understand how several parallel approaches are used to contribute to the overall collapse narrative.

Asset Management of Pile Foundations at I-43 Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge

Don Green

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Based on the 2013-2014 subsurface investigation results, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) embarked on a long-term corrosion monitoring program to determine if there is a future long-term reduction in foundation structural capacity at several of the existing piers at the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge. The long-term corrosion monitoring program was designed to enhance asset management decision-making and forecast the remaining service life. Steel coupons and corrosion monitoring instrumentation were installed in 2014 at 7 representative bridge piers to obtain site-specific data about corrosion rate. The corrosion rate data has been used to improve the prediction of future section loss of pile foundations, determine remaining service life at several bridge piers, “right-size” mitigation, and improve the reliability of budget forecasting for bridge rehabilitation.

Learning Objectives:

  • The corrosion monitoring program at Leo Frigo continues to enhance asset management decision-making and forecast the remaining service life. 
  • Health monitoring of bridge foundations can be used to provide a rational approach to predicting the remaining service life of bridge foundations..
  • Prediction of remaining service life at Leo Frigo is an asset to “right-size” mitigation, and improves the reliability of budget forecasting for bridge rehabilitation. 

Attendees will receive 4 hours of CE credit. Materials will be sent out as soon as they become available.


This is a virtual event on Zoom and will be recorded. Attendees must have a Zoom account in order to access the presentation.
Please register before Tuesday, August 16 to ensure you receive access to the webinar

Members - $80.00
Nonmembers - $140.00

About the Speakers

Ross J. Smith, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CDT
Principal - Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

Ross Smith is experienced in structural evaluation, building enclosure commissioning, unique failure investigations, repair design, and construction quality control. His work also includes structural and architectural failures related to water infiltration, fire, wind, snow, condensation and material failures. Mr. Smith also specializes in full-building condition surveys, coordinating multiple engineering disciplines for a comprehensive analysis and then assisting owners in developing and administering asset management systems. Mr. Smith is also experienced in new building design, sustainable construction, peer reviews, and litigation assistance.


Jonathan C. McGormley, PE, SE
Principal - Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

Jonathan McGormley joined Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. in 1994, and has been involved with the structural evaluation and repair of deteriorated or distressed structures. Through his work, he has carried out numerous inspections and evaluations of structures with an emphasis on fatigue and fracture problems. Mr. McGormley has also evaluated numerous cable-supported structures that have included fabric structures and bridges.  He is also experienced in nondestructive testing techniques and has conducted instrumentation and field testing projects as well as research projects.  Jon currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer for the Research Council on Structural Connections (Bolt Council) and is a Vice President for the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering. Jon earned his BSCE from the University of Cincinnati and his MSCE from Purdue University in West Lafayette.

Sebastian Mendes, Ph.D., P.E.
Senior Project Engineer - Thornton Tomasetti

Since joining Thornton Tomasetti’s forensics team in 2014, Dr. Sebastian Mendes has been involved in several forensics investigations, numerous structural retrofit projects, and new building designs. His project experience ranges from blast design, to lab conversions, to designing an innovative tuned mass damper system. He holds his M.S. from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Ph.D. from University of Rhode Island, both in structural engineering.


Liling Cao, Ph.D., P.E.
Principal - Thornton Tomasetti

Dr. Liling Cao graduated from Lehigh University with a Ph.D. degree in structural engineering. She has more than 15 years of experience at Thornton Tomasetti and leads Advanced Analytics Group in the Forensics Practice. Dr. Cao is specialized in structural damage assessment, material durability and service life evaluation, failure investigation and structural stabilization. She is also an adjunct professor teaching Forensic Engineering at Manhattan College in New York City.



Don Green, P.E.
Project Manager - Michael Baker International, Inc.

Don is a practicing civil engineer with 44 years of experience designing complex substructures. He is an NHI certified instructor for FHWA teaching LRFD substructure design. He is a subject matter expert in geotechnical and foundation engineering and is engaged on projects nationwide to provide technical input and oversight on behalf of Michael Baker and its clients.



William Fluhr ( Szewczak Associates )
Brian Janus ( TranSystems )
Xin Chu ( Thornton Tomasetti )
Jonathan Lewis ( Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. )
Kermin Chok ( Arup )
Michael Joseph ( )
Joseph Chittenden ( GTG Consultants, Inc. )
Braden Schwarz ( GEI Consultants )
Jacob Van Ryn ( Enspect Engineering, Inc. )
Marlene Delaney ( Jensen Hughes )
Jaime Niesen ( The Structural Shop )
Connor Mills ( Collins Engineers )
Riley Brown ( Thornton Tomasetti )
Matthew Pregmon ( AECOM )
Stephen Schmitt ( Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. )
Rachel Jackson ( Thornton Tomasetti, Inc. )
Michael Wodarcyk ( Jensen Hughes )
Victor Carsello
Seth Hoffman ( Brierley Associates )
Kermin Chok ( Arup )
Joseph Petrich ( Sargent & Lundy LLC (Retired) )
Andrew Weihert ( Sargent & Lundy, LLC )
Rebecca Havel ( Simpson Gumpertz & Heger )
Michael Cox ( MC & Associates, LLC )
Michelle Ryland ( Klein & Hoffman )
James Adams ( AECOM )
Harry Marshall ( Harry E. Marshall )
Vincent Tabor ( Farnsworth Group )
Don Jabczynski ( S.E. Enhancements, LLC )
Scott Shoup ( Hampton, Lenzini & Renwick, Inc. )
Jeffrey Carlson ( The Consulting Engineers Group, Inc. )
Josh Brickman
Aaron Neuman ( USG )
Justin Heine ( Wolf Point Engineers )
Harry Kuchma ( The Structural Group, Ltd. )
Mark Stern ( James F. Giannini & Associates )
Robert Nicksic ( James F. Giannini & Associates )
Arancha Alarcon ( Northwestern University )
Steven Beran ( IDOT - Illinois Department of Transportation )
John Owen ( Owen Engineering LLC )
Michael Faron ( Faron & Associates )
David Maurer