YELL COUNTY (KFSM) — A historic bridge north of Ola was destroyed Wednesday when a semi drove over it, and the bridge collapsed.
The bridge was located on Dale Bend Road (County Road 49) and crossed the Petit Jean River. Our SKY5 drone captured the scene from high over the Petit Jean River on Thursday.
According to Jeff Gilkey, director of the Yell County Office of Emergency Management, the driver of the semi was following GPS instructions when he encountered the bridge. Despite the 6-ton posted weight limit, he attempted to cross the bridge at about 8 p.m.
"He was about 64,000 pounds over the weight limit," Gilkey said.
The bridge partially collapsed at first, taking the semi into the river with it. By Thursday morning, the rest of the bridge had fully collapsed into the river.
"Last night, the truck was about 50 percent submerged and the trailer about 25 percent, and by this morning the truck was fully submerged and the trailer about 50 percent," Gilkey said.
The driver wasn't injured.
He said there might have been a language barrier and the driver didn't understand the weight-limit sign.
Gilkey said the truck was carrying chicken processed for human consumption. The chicken was still in the truck, which has lead to environmental concerns. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Arkansas Department of Health have been contacted, Gilkey said.
The insurance adjusters have also been out on behalf of the trucking company, US Citylink Inc., which is out of Bakersfield, California.
Gilkey said they likely would need to bring in a 100-ton crane or larger to clear out the semi and bridge remains. That may lead to other issues: Because Dale Bend Road is a small gravel road, they may have to widen it or carve a new path to get the crane in position. They may also have to build a special pad on which to set the crane to keep it from falling into the river.
A notice on IDriveArkansas.com shows County Road 49 closed until July 2019, but Gilkey said engineers have told him it could take up to a year to replace the bridge. Until then, Dale Bend Road will remain shut down.
"It's going to burden a lot of people," Gilkey said. The road is popular for hunters, as a shortcut to Highway 10 and as access to a nearby wildlife refuge. It will now take about 20-30 minutes to go around the bridge, he said.
The Pratt Through-Truss-style bridge was built in 1930 by the Vincennes Bridge Co. of Vincennes, Indiana, according to Bridgehunter.com.
Gilkey said he's received dozens of comments from people who remember the old bridge fondly, including those who took photos on the bridge in their youth.
"I did not realize how many people have cherished this bridge," he said.