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9-ton truck pulls down 1890s span

By Debra Hale-Shelton

This article was published April 13, 2011 at 4:49 a.m.

yellow-tape-blocks-an-entrance-to-the-historic-fryer-bridge-tuesday-april-12-2011-in-morrilton-ark-the-bridge-collapsed-after-the-driver-of-a-9-ton-truck-drove-over-the-structure-that-has-a-3-ton-weight-limit-the-fryer-bridge-is-a-metal-truss-thats-one-of-the-last-of-its-kind-in-the-state-the-state-highway-commission-says-its-the-oldest-bridge-that-was-still-in-service-in-arkansas

Yellow tape blocks an entrance to the historic Fryer Bridge, Tuesday, April 12, 2011, in Morrilton, Ark. The bridge collapsed after the driver of a 9-ton truck drove over the structure that has a 3-ton weight limit. The Fryer Bridge is a metal truss that's one of the last of its kind in the state. The state highway commission says it's the oldest bridge that was still in service in Arkansas.

— Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart said he would talk with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program — a state agency that, among other things, maintains information on historic sites — including a bridge that was heavily damaged Monday. An article in Wednesday’s editions gave the incorrect name for the agency.

Travelers spanning three centuries - first ones on foot, then in covered wagons or on horseback, recent ones in cars, vans and pickups and finally one in a 9-ton truck - have crossed Fryer’s Ford Bridge in rural Conway County.

Until this week, the iron-truss structure built in 1890-91 over Point Remove Creek that is also known as the Solgohachia Bridge was Arkansas’ oldest bridge still in service.

That changed Monday, when the bridge was yanked from its foundation when a tall water reel that the heavy rig was pulling got caught on a clearance bar, County Judge Jimmy Hart said Tuesday.

No one was hurt.

Hart said he would talk with Arkansas Historic Preservation Society officials but did not know whether the bridge could be saved.

“I’ve been across it more than once,” Hart said.

“It’s over a 100-year-old bridge. It’s got some memories about it,” but it also has some significant restrictions.

“I’d like to see some type of preservation done” if feasible, he added.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the one-lane, 131-foot long bridge was a popular shortcut between the communities of Solgohachia and St. Vincent.

If the bridge can’t be repaired, the county will have to build another bridge there, Hart said.

The bridge is roughly 2 miles outside Solgohachia, which is about 6 miles north of Morrilton.

The structure’s east end is still “pretty much intact,” Hart said, but the west end “really took the beating” and landed in the creek. He said he hopes workers can get it out of the water before a heavy rain pushes it down farther.

“It’s just a mangled mess,” said David Nilles, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Authorities said Jason Burris, 34, of Russellville was driving the 9-ton truck when the accident happened Monday.

He was ticketed for disobeying a traffic-control device - signs prohibiting commercial trucks from using the bridge, which only vehicles up to 3 tons could legally cross.

Sheriff Mike Smith said Burris “wasn’t saying too much” when they talked.

“He might have been in a little bit of shock,” Smith said.

In January 1890, Conway County contracted with the Ohio-based Wrought Iron Bridge Co. for an iron superstructure costing $3,898 and signed a separate contract with a local mason, Alfred Cook, for building three stone abutments, according to the Highway Department. The ironwork was erected in 1891.

“As the oldest remaining bridge in vehicular service in Arkansas, and the only known remaining bridge built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, one of the largest manufacturers of iron truss bridges in the 1800s, the Solgohachia Bridge is an important and rare example of a nineteenth-century iron bridge,” according to the Arkansas preservation group’s website.

While the historic group calls the crossing the Solgohachia Bridge, the Highway Department’s Nilles said the name is Fryer’s Ford Bridge.

One person especially saddened by the accident was Scott Fryer, the great-grandson of Richard Fryer, for whom the crossing was named.

Scott Fryer said he learned of the accident when his wife heard about it on television and let out “a blood-curdling scream.”

Scott Fryer, who lives near Jacksonville and works for the state Department of Finance and Administration, said his great-grandfather started a farm near the bridge and was Solgohachia’s first postmaster.

“We like to go up there several times a year just to reminisce,” Fryer said as he began relating family history, such as the 1915 murders of his great-grandfather, a son, a daughter and a son-in-law at the hands of a man who went to prison, got out, killed again and went back to prison, where he died.

Texas-based SweetH2O Transfer Services owns the truck involved in the bridge accident, said Phillip Boren, vice president of MidCon Region at Select Energy Services, SweetH2O’s parent company.

Water-transfer services take water to drilling sites, such as those in the Fayetteville Shale, to complete wells through hydraulic fracturing.

Boren declined to say how long Burris had worked for the company, and Burris could not be located by telephone.

“We are working with the local authorities ... to gather all the facts of the incident,” Boren said.

Hart said, however, that SweetH2O “is going to have to assume the liability” and added, “I just hope they’ve got good insurance.”

As for Scott Fryer, he and his wife hope to visit the bridge site this weekend.

He doesn’t see how the bridge can be repaired well enough to handle vehicular traffic and still be historically accurate.

“If they are able to raise it up out of the water and get it back in place, I think pedestrian traffic” only might be the best option, he said.

“We’ve lost a part of our family history, and we’ve lost a part of the state’s history,” he said.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 04/13/2011

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LR1955 says... April 13, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.

This was in yesterdays paper and said the bridge collapsed. There must have been 20 comments. Now that article just disappears. Why an;t the ArkDemGaz just add an update to the original article and keep all the comments together ?????
It was a nice bridge but now it appears it was pulled down by to tall of a truck, not caved in by the weight. The driver and his company should be responsible for SOME of the damage but in a pro-rated way. It wasn't in like-new condition before the accident.
Inspection (as of 01/2010)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Appraisal: Structurally deficient
Sufficiency rating: 6.9 (out of 100)

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skyking4ar2 says... April 13, 2011 at 9:05 a.m.

Either way, he violated the law, he broke it, he buys a replacement. If he had done that to your car, would you expect any different? You have to be accountable for your own stupidity.

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LevitiCuss says... April 13, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.

The fossil-fuel industry just keeps on giving. Don't look for the NG folks to repair the roads their trucks are tearing up either. You will get to pay for that as well. Ain't it grand? Natural Gas: The Future of the Natural State. Can't wait until they decide they need to use their power of emminent domain to run pipes across my property.

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LR1955 says... April 13, 2011 at 10:17 a.m.

Fryerbride says... There is a lot of drilling in that area.....so can we assume that there's probably been other overweight trucks also using the bridge ?
Sufficiency rating: 6.9 (out of 100) An attorney will look this up and discover to get this low the weight capacity has probably has been downgraded over the years and maintenance lacking. An attorney will also dig up who's responsibile for maintence, Was there any pressure by the Fryer family towards the county or state road department to not change a thing, much less replace it (and it did qualify for federal dollars for replacement, Could the drilling have caused some underground rumblings that shook some bolts loose, is the Fryer family getting any drilling money ?

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AR2010 says... April 13, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.

LR1955 you work for SweetH2O the company that is responsible for this incident don't you?

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Abeable7 says... April 13, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.

According to the Channel 11 story, the driver felt the bridge shaking while driving across and it fell on his trailer just as he was getting to the other side. I suspect other gas well service trucks over the limit have driven across the bridge that weakened it. The Fryer family moved to this area in the early 1840's and there are still some family members in the general area, but not near the Fryer's Ford Bridge. The family has no input on bridge maintenance or replacement as it's contribution was in the form of an easement through it's land for the road and bridge in 1890 and has not owned that particular land for several generations. Since the bridge is on the National Register of Historical Places, there are restrictions related to modifications that disrupt historical significance, but it is up to the county and state to inspect, repair or replace the bridge. It should have been replaced years ago with a modern bridge upstream and closed to traffic and could have been left in place as the bridge is in a hairpin curve.

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AR2010 says... April 13, 2011 at 12:40 p.m.

The Natural gas industry has definately boosted our local economy with jobs and royalty money, but they are destroying our roads, our land and now our historical landmarks. We should care more about preservation of our history for our children and our grandchildrens sake. There is no excuse for this incident. The managers of SweetH2O should have surveyed this area and found a better route or informed the employees working in the area that they could NOT CROSS Fryer Bridge with there loaded trucks and trailers. My message for SweetH2O is stop making excuses...(lawyers will find this and lawyers will find that & other people did it too)OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKE and make it right!

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LR1955 says... April 13, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.

AR2010....I don't work for any Gas/oil exploration company or their subcontractors.
Abeable7....I agree.

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Fryerbride says... April 16, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.

Thank you for all your comments. We went to talk to Judge Hart yesterday and the final decision has not been made. We, as the Fryer family want the bridge preserved if at all possible. We will abide by the decision of the Judge and the county but we are working with them to preserve the bridge if at all possible. I mistake was made and they will have to own up to it. The bridge is/was a thing of beauty. I do not believe that we should tear down anything of historcial value just because there is a better way. As abeable said (my husband) this has been in operation for 121 years. How many high winds, tornados or floods have we has since the building of the bridge. It withstood thoses. It took one person in a truck to bring it down just because he was not thinking. The bridge was clearly marked for its weight limit. the driver said he didn't "think" his truck was that heavy. The truck drivers I know allways know how much weight they are carrying. It is just a matter of being careless, and this beautiful bridge had to pay for it. A cousin went there on Tuesday and people were coming up to her in mourning over the loss of the bridge. To a LOT of people, not just the Fryer family, this is not just another bridge. It is a source of price for Conway county, Arkansas and of course the Fryer family.

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Morgancub says... April 16, 2011 at 1:16 p.m.

Just last month i used that bridge everyday for a few weeks.. I drive an S-10 .. It was a fine old bridge on a nice old road... It's a shame..
The local community using the bridge daily will surely miss it...
REBUILD IT !!!! Pretty irresponsible of this driver !!

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