Covered bridge heavily damaged by tractor trailer in East Pikeland Twp.

Watch the report from Action News.
April 29, 2014 1:52:42 PM PDT
Officials have closed a road in East Pikeland Twp., Pa. after a tractor trailer was driven through a covered bridge, heavily damaging the structure.

It happened Tuesday morning on Rapps Dam Road at the Rapps Dam Covered Bridge, which spans French Creek.

Police say a truck carrying potted plants was heading over the bridge from Route 113 toward Route 23.

The truck apparently made it all the way through the bridge, but not before tearing out most of the wooden support beams.

Images from Chopper 6 showed the truck parked nearby with debris from the bridge still resting on top of the trailer.

Police say the driver of the truck was 37-year-old Antoine Branham of Erial, New Jersey, and he had been on the job just four days.

Branham said he didn't see the height restriction ahead of the bridge. He is facing numerous motor vehicle and vandalism charges.

Police say Branham claims the GPS in his truck directed him to the bridge, adding he just got his commercial driver's license 30 days ago.

They say he had never driven a tractor trailer until five days ago when he was hired by Centerton Nursery in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The company had not comment.

Branham had little to say to Action News.

"As you can see I am actually upset about everything, so please respect that," Branham said.

Investigators say he hit the first beam and kept on going.

""He said he panicked. When he realized he had struck the bridge he panicked and accelerated the truck and got all the way over to the other side," said Chief James Franciscus of East Pikeland Twp. Police. The 106-foot long, 14-foot wide covered bridge just underwent a $1.5 million rehab back in 2011.

Engineering firm Pennoni Associates said it won an award for their work on the bridge.

The bridge was originally constructed by Benjamin F. Hartman in 1866 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Pennoni said it served as a consultant during the design process.

PennDOT says the bridge is now closed indefinitely due to structural damage sustained in the Tuesday's incident. Bridge engineers will develop a plan to repair the damage following an examination of the bridge.

Motorists are advised to follow the posted detour of Route 113 (Kimberton Road) and Route 23 (Schuylkill Road) while the bridge is closed.

The bridge carried an average of 3,600 vehicles a day.


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