Bridge struck by trash truck collapses in Detroit

AP News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2014 6:11 PM
Bridge struck by trash truck collapses in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a Detroit freeway after a trash truck struck the overpass early Friday, leaving the 54-year-old truck driver dead and snarling rush hour traffic, officials said.

Two other vehicles were struck by debris, but no one else was injured, Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said at the scene.

"If this would have happened maybe an hour later it would have been a lot worse," he said.

The west side bridge is about two blocks from Cody High School. Reports of its collapse came into police about 6 a.m. They determined a boom on the truck was extended too high to go under the bridge. When the boom struck the bridge, it pulled the overpass down, Shaw said.

State officials said the bridge, nearly 15 feet above M-39, known as the Southfield Freeway, was in "fair to good" condition, meaning that it was safe for use before being hit by the truck. No one was on the bridge when it fell, Shaw said. Traffic on the roadway below was fairly light because the crash occurred just at the beginning of rush hour.

Barnika Cage, who lives a block from the bridge, told The Detroit News she heard a "boom," went down the street and saw that the bridge had fallen. She said she saw a man get out of the truck, stumble, and then fall face first on the grass along the freeway.

"There was blood all over his face," Cage said.

Shaw said Stanford Doll, of Almont in Lapeer County, later died at a Detroit hospital. He wasn't wearing a seat belt, which may have been a factor in his death, Shaw said.

Mechanical problems with the truck have been ruled out and it appears the crash was caused by driver error, Shaw said.

About four hours after the crash, the truck was on the side of the freeway with its windshield wipers still moving.

Part of the bridge's span lay mangled atop the pavement on the freeway's northbound lanes. The span over the southbound lanes was twisted above the ground. Concrete support pillars were wrenched from their bases, exposing steel reinforcing bars.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was among the first drivers to stop at the scene. Stafford was on his way to the team's practice facility in nearby Allen Park to prepare for Sunday's road game against the New York Jets.

"It shocked me, but it probably shocked some people that were right around it even more," Stafford later told reporters at the practice facility. "I didn't really know what I was looking at. You don't expect to see that when you were driving to work, but I'm sure there were people closer to it than I was."

A team security official stopped his car on the freeway service drive and switched vehicles with Stafford, allowing the quarterback to get to the practice facility.

The bridge was inspected by state officials in May and was due to be replaced in 2017, according to Diane Cross, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department.

"All bridges have a lifespan, but this bridge had another three years in it," Cross said. "It was not a structural issue. The only reason it's down is that the truck pulled it down.

"I would imagine if it brought down this bridge, most bridges would get knocked down the same way."

Traffic was forced off the freeway in both directions. Northbound and southbound lanes were expected to reopen sometime Friday night, Shaw said.

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Associated Press writer David Runk contributed to this report.