Truck plows through a piece of Bucks County history

September 12, 2012 2:51:00 PM PDT
PennDOT estimates it will cost half a million dollars to repair the historic Erwinna covered bridge in Tinicum Twp., Pa.

The bridge, one of 13 covered bridges in Bucks County, is now closed indefinitely after a 13-foot-high box truck plowed through it Tuesday morning causing severe structural damage.

"Knowing his truck was 13 feet tall, seeing the sign for 11-feet height clearance entered the bridge and heard it break and then continued to drive through it till he made it out the other side," said Tinicum Township Police Officer Mark Compas.

Photos show what it looked like after: a pile of splintered cross beams strewn across the bridge surface.

"He knocked out every cross member and the cabling that was holding the bridge side to side," said Tinicum Township Manager Linda McNeill. "How he could not have been aware that he was just destroying the bridge is beyond belief."

Police say Wes Stull, a driver for an Ephrata countertop company, told them he was being tailgated and had the sun in his eyes at the time of the accident.

Cops say he'll be ticketed.

Meanwhile engineeers are examining the damage and PennDOT crews are scrambling to shore up the covered bridge, which was first built in 1852, rebuilt in 1996 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

"If there's a wind or a heavy rain storm or something that would sway the bridge then it would be more likely to collapse," said preservation architect Daniel Campbell. "But right now they're taking some measures to tighten it up so it won't do that."

Local officials say this is going to cause some real headaches. Two other east-west bridges in the township are already closed, and detours could add a half hour in extra travel time.

"A lot of us folks use this road every day, so it's going to be a bit inconvenient," said Wayne Hobson of Tinicum.

The township manager is also worried about fire trucks and rescue vehicles having to detour around the bridge.

"You see the covered bridges and you're like, 'Ha! This is Bucks County!'" said Kristi Edmonston, who's from Boston. "So to have this not in our township for a period of time, it's a sad thing."

PennDOT says it will make repairs as quickly as possible and seek reimbursement from the driver's company for the cost.


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