Paoli bridge at Lick Creek in southern Indiana collapses in just seconds after a semi-truck crossing it was too heavy. The downtown bridge was quite the sight to see on Christmas Day as dozens of residents could not believe their eyes, but now officials are trying to determine what to do next, according to Inside Indiana Business.
Paoli residents could not believe their eyes as many of them pulled out their cameras and cell phones and to save the memory. The downtown bridge over Lick Creek, built in 1880, now leans to one side after a truck tried passing through.
The driver, 23-year-old Mary Lambright of Fredericksburg, was inexperienced and had just left the Amish order about a year ago. She and her passenger, her 17-year-old female cousin, were not injured.
Signs before the Paoli bridge at Lick Creek show no trucks allowed and the weight limit is at six tons. Police Chief Randall Sanders says the truck carrying thousands of bottles of water weighed about 35 tons. That’s nearly six times the posted limit.
Lambright was arrested on a charge of reckless operation of a tractor-trailer, but was not taken to jail, but cited into court. She was also cited for disregarding a traffic control device, the signage on the Paoli bridge and traveling with an overweight load on a posted bridge.
“As you can tell they went in way too fast … clipped the top of the trailer … ripped it back about a third of the way back,” Chief Sanders said. Residents couldn’t believe their eyes.
Sanders says Lambright, an independent driver, was hauling more than 43,000 pounds of bottled water in a leased truck from Penske for Louisville Logistics. She was crossing the bridge to make a delivery at Walmart when she missed her road. In an attempt to head north toward the store, she tried making it over the Paoli bridge.
Lambright told police that she couldn’t turn the truck around because there was equipment parked in a lot and she couldn’t get turned around. Lambright says she was uncomfortable backing up the semi and didn’t think to call police or another driver for assistance so she attempted to cross the iron Paoli bridge.
“When I first laid eyes on it, I was like holy cow,” Marty Hill said. “I mean, I’ll tell you the truth. I cried when I seen that. I mean it’s been there ever since I’ve been here,” Ed Scott said. “What were they thinking?” asked Donna Hill.
The accident happened around 12:15 p.m. Emergency responders spent several hours unloading the water bottles to lighten the load on the Paoli bridge before they could begin the clean-up.
“They really don’t make a book on how to do this,” Chief Sanders said.
Workers began cutting the Paoli bridge beams Friday evening to free the truck. No one was injured in the accident, and Chief Sanders says, as of right now, the woman driving the truck only has to pay $135 for disregarding a posted sign.
“It destroyed our landmark here in Paoli, so it’s kind of sad,” Hill said. “It’s one of the few things left … that’s historical … that was in good shape … It’s just sad seeing it like it is,” Paoli Town Council President Michael Harkness said.
Police say that Lambright was traveling more than 30 miles per hour in order to get the vehicle stuck that far on the Paoli bridge. Once she started onto the bridge, the trailer got stuck, ripping about a third of the trailer top off. Then the weight of the vehicle made the Paoli bridge begin to collapse, pushing both sides of the bridge inward.
A witnesses, who saw the bridge begin collapsing, called police. The truck is being held pending an Indiana State Police inspection. Other crews helped remove any debris and unloaded the water from the semi on the bridge.
Many hope the Paoli bridge at Lick Creek can be rebuilt to look like it once did. “I go across the bridge to go to church, and I come back across. That’s my favorite bridge. Every Sunday I go across,” Scott said. The clean-up is expected to take hours. Officials say the bridge will be closed for weeks, if not months.