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GPS-Led Trucker Wrecks Historic Bridge

Monday, October 1, 2012

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A tractor-trailer driver who was dutifully following GPS directions ended up plowing through a 139-year-old covered bridge in Indiana, leaving shattered roof trusses and about $300,000 in damage.

DeKalb County officials are still awaiting a final engineering report from USI Consultants Inc. of Indianapolis on the damage to the Spencerville Covered Bridge in the wake of Wednesday’s (Sept. 26) wreck.

 Authorities said the truck exceeded both the height and weight restrictions on the bridge.

 Photos: Ed Farrell / Report It

Authorities said the truck exceeded both the height and weight restrictions on the bridge. The rig tore down trusses as the driver plowed through the length of the 1873 structure.

The single-lane bridge, which crosses the St. Joseph River 20 miles northeast of Fort Wayne, has been closed to traffic.

The 168-foot-long bridge, also known as the Coburn Covered Bridge, has been in continuous use since 1873. It was extensively renovated in 1981 and added to the National Register of Historic Places the same year.

Trucker Charged

Truck driver Gerard Hudson, 46, of Waukegan, IL, was arrested on a felony charge of criminal mischief after he admitted driving through the bridge, which is marked with a clearance of 12½ feet. He also faces two citations for violating federal motor carrier safety regulations.

In addition to exceeding the bridge’s height limit, the empty rig was over the bridge’s three-ton weight limit, Chief Deputy Gerald Kline told reporters.

Hudson was jailed overnight in lieu of $1,500 bail and appeared in court Thursday.

Kline identified Hudson as a driver for J.F. Freight Co., a long-haul carrier based in Palatine, IL, and said he was insured through the company.

‘Boggles the Mind’

Neighbors were stunned by the accident.

“I think everybody is pretty dumbfounded and not able to comprehend how anyone in their right mind could drive a semi through a 140-year-old covered bridge, resident Lisa Vetter told the Associated Press. “It just boggles the mind.”

Patton said the tractor-trailer traveled the entire length of the bridge, shattering trusses as it traveled.

“He started on the west end and actually took the east end with him,” Patton said.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Engineering; Health and safety; Laws and litigation

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