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A Reminder to All Big Rigs: Bridges Beware

by Jana Ritter - Published: 6/11/2013

In the most recent of fatal bridge accidents involving big rigs, a truck driver died Monday after his semi tractor-trailer overturned on a Rocky Mount bridge in North Carolina and sent the cab into a rain-swollen creek. 

Bigrig crash

David Warren Stone was hauling building materials when he was involved in a crash with an automobile on U.S. Highway 301 Bypass south of U.S. Highway 64 at about 1:40 p.m., police said. The collision caused the truck's cab to plunge over the bridge and into Stoney Creek, while the trailer remained perched on the bridge's rail. The Rocky Mount Fire Department's swift-water rescue team responded but was unable to rescue the driver, police said. The water in Stoney Creek was moving too fast to attempt any recovery efforts Monday.

A crane was brought in and pulled the truck from the water at about 10:30 p.m., David Warren Stone's body was still in the cab, police said.

Stone, 71, of Rocky Mount, was a veteran trucker and his family members shared other things about him. "He was a real quiet man. He loved to play guitar and sing," Stone's brother-in-law, Mack Shearin, said as he choked back tears. Estes Express Lines, Stone's employer, released a statement Tuesday morning expressing their sympathy for his family. The company said it is working with local and state police to learn more about the wreck. 

Shearin has said witnesses told him that some type of vehicle pulled in front of Stone's truck, causing him to lose control and go off the bridge. However, Police said the crash remains under investigation. The accident closed both Northbound lanes of U.S. 301 Monday, but one lane reopened Tuesday. It was unclear how long the other lane would remain closed. State Department of Transportation engineers said they have to inspect the bridge after the truck is removed to assess how badly it was damaged.

Reports have also been released regarding another bridge related incident that occurred only a few weeks ago in Washington State, when the driver of an oversize load triggered an Interstate 5 bridge to collapse. The driver told investigators that he felt "crowded" by a passing vehicle and moved closer to the side of the bridge that had less clearance, according to a preliminary federal report.

A brief assessment issued by the National Transportation Safety Board said the oversize load collided with the far right side of the truss structure on the evening of May 23, resulting in the collapse of the bridge into the Skagit River. The driver reported that his load was 15 feet, 9 inches tall while the lowest portion of the bridge braces was just 14 feet, 8 inches.

The NTSB has been looking to speak with the driver of the truck and trailer that passed the oversize load, but board spokesman Peter Knudson said officials still have not found the person or vehicle.

While the details of both accidents remain to be heard, one underlying issue is clear; any accident involving any big rig driving over any bridge can be more dangerous than anything else.