Police: Driver dies after pulling down bridge
By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and COREY WILLIAMS
DETROIT (AP) -- The driver of a waste-hauling truck died Friday morning after hitting a pedestrian bridge over a Detroit freeway, pulling it down onto the roadway below and snarling rush-hour traffic, officials said.
Reports of a bridge collapse came into police about 6 a.m. They determined a boom on a waste-hauling truck was extended too high to go under the bridge, Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said at the scene.
"When the boom struck the bridge, it actually pulled the bridge down with it," Shaw said.
State transportation officials said the bridge was in "fair to good" condition, meaning that it was safe for use before being hit by the truck. No one was on the bridge when it fell, Shaw said, and the timing of the crash prevented it from being much worse.
"It's just the beginning of rush hour, so nobody else was struck," Shaw said. "If this would have happened maybe an hour later it would have been a lot worse."
Shaw said the driver, whose identity has not been released, was taken to a hospital and died. He wasn't wearing a seat belt, which may have been a factor in his death, Shaw said. Two other vehicles were struck by debris, but no one else was injured, Shaw said.
About four hours after the crash, the truck was on the side of the freeway with its windshield wipers still moving.
Barnika Cage, who lives a block from the bridge, told The Detroit News she heard a "boom" sound, went down the street and saw that the bridge had fallen. She said she saw a man get out of the truck, stumble, and then fall face first on the grass along the freeway.
"There was blood all over his face," Cage said. "I was just praying he was OK."
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was among the first drivers to stop at the scene, the team said. Stafford, who was on his way to the team's practice facility in Allen to prepare for Sunday's road game against the New York Jets, was picked up by team security.
Traffic was being forced off the freeway in both directions, officials said. The Michigan Department of Transportation said crews hope to be able to clear the bridge from the roadway and reopen the freeway after police complete their on-scene investigation Friday.
At freeway speeds, "momentum is enough to take down the bridge" when hit by a truck, Shaw said.
MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said she didn't immediately know the age of the bridge, but said it wasn't replaced when the freeway was rebuilt in 2009.
"It still had many years of service left," she said of the bridge. "It's only down because a truck pulled it down."
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