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story.lead_photo.caption The Dale Bend Bridge near Ola collapsed the night of Jan. 30, 2019 as a truck attempted to cross it, the Yell County sheriff's office said. (Photo by Trisha Holt)

Crews were working Thursday to remove an 18-wheeler from a river in Arkansas after the driver, relying on his GPS, drove over a nearly 90-year-old bridge before it collapsed, officials in Yell County said.

Authorities responded to the bridge just after 8 p.m. Wednesday when the driver tried driving the truck across the Dale Bend Bridge near Ola.

Yell County Director of Emergency Management Jeff Gilkey said the driver had likely gotten lost and was following his GPS through narrow dirt roads before he got to the crossing.

The truck remained in the Petit Jean River on Thursday morning after continuing to sink overnight, “completely submerging” the trailer, Gilkey said.

“It’s quite a mess,” he said. “This is going to be an extensive recovery.”

Gallery: Yell County Bridge Collapse

The county is working with the driver’s insurance company to get the truck out “as soon as possible,” Gilkey said.

The bridge collapsed under the weight of the truck, tilting the vehicle on its side as it hit the water, the county sheriff's office said. Gilkey said the driver was “a little shaken up” but wasn’t injured after he managed to escape.

Weight restriction signs ahead of the bridge are listed at 6 tons. County officials said the truck was around 40 tons and carrying chicken products from a nearby farm.

Gilkey said he was surprised the driver made it to the bridge because narrow roads that often flood in the winter are the only way to get there.

Removing the truck might require bringing in equipment from outside of the state, he said.

“Our biggest concern now is remediation and getting a new bridge,” Gilkey said, adding that it's used often by local residents and outdoor enthusiasts visiting the area.

The Vincennes Bridge Co. built the bridge in the 1930s, according to website Bridgehunter, which catalogs historical information about U.S. bridges.

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Archived Comments

  • MaxCady
    January 31, 2019 at 12:20 p.m.

    Six ton (12K pound) bridge and an 80K (40 ton) pound truck. Somebody is not very good at cipherin'.

  • BuzzDog
    January 31, 2019 at 1:10 p.m.

    According to commenters at the bridgehunter website, the information in their database is incorrect with regard to the bridge being built in 1930. This is a pin-connected bridge (as opposed to riveted), which is a type of connector not seen on iron bridges built after 1919 or 1920.

  • ZeebronZ
    January 31, 2019 at 2:20 p.m.

    Maybe he should have asked for directions.

  • 2thepoint
    January 31, 2019 at 4:31 p.m.

    What an idiotic thing to do!

  • HarleyOwner
    January 31, 2019 at 5:11 p.m.

    I wonder why he didn't realize that the way he was going, was not the way he got in there? As a retired driver, there were several times in my career that I got lost but thankfully nothing like this. I'm sure his truck driving career is over.

  • maxmabi777
    January 31, 2019 at 5:14 p.m.

    "Maybe" he got lost? There was a load limit sign, can he not read? Negligence! Maybe trying to take a short cut to save time?

  • kellyinlrarusa
    January 31, 2019 at 6:41 p.m.

    as a driver my self hauling const. equipment. people do depend on their GPS too much. however i have called for directions and told to come on and cross a bridge that was posted. and sometimes there isnt another way around. however this wasnt the case.

  • IMHO
    January 31, 2019 at 7:16 p.m.

    Who owns the truck? Who owns the plant that produced the chicken? What is the driver's name and city and state of residence? Seems like an driver unfamiliar with being in the Ola area would be given directions on how to easily get back to the Interstate. Everyone who ever had a GPS system or used Google Maps knows looking at a paper map is not a bad idea, especially in a rural area. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's odd that so many facts are being left out of the articles about this accident.

  • LR1955
    February 1, 2019 at 6:55 a.m.

    Chicken products, like something that’s seeping into the river? What an idiot driver!

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