While surveying for the location of the Brooklyn tower in the summer of 1869, his toes were crushed in a freak accident at a ferry pier. Roebling, ever philosophical and autocratic, disregarded the advice of several doctors and prescribed his own cures, which did not work well. He died of tetanus soon after.
The task of actually building the bridge fell to Roebling's son, Colonel Washington Roebling, who had built suspension bridges while serving as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. Washington Roebling would work tirelessly on the bridge project for 14 years, and was himself nearly killed by the work.