May Avenue Bridge Collapses Onto Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City
The May Avenue bridge over the Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City collapsed around 2:40 P.M. on Thursday, May 19, after being clipped by a semi-trailer truck that lacked enough clearance to safely pass beneath the bridge. Fortunately, despite extensive physical damage to the overpass and expressway below, no injuries or fatalities were reported. However, this accident serves as a sobering reminder of the dangers all drivers face each time they get behind the wheel. Our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers have more on this developing story.
Truck Driver Causes Highway Bridge Collapse Accident with Clearance Miscalculation
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 118 out of 1,159 bridges in Oklahoma County were considered “structurally deficient” as of 2015. Was the May Avenue bridge, which underwent its last inspection in August 2014, among them?
USDOT doesn’t list names; but for Oklahoma City Public Works Director Eric Wegner, and countless other Oklahomans, the collapse was a surprising event. With more than 16% of Oklahoma’s bridges (3,776 out of 23,049) deemed structurally deficient, accidents aren’t entirely unheard-of – “It’s not very often though,” Wegner said, “that we do see a bridge hit and actually completely fail like we had today.”
The collapse also came as a surprise to the truck driver who caused it. The trucker, a Sunbelt Rentals employee who was transporting a boom lift on a flatbed semi-trailer, had already passed beneath the bridge heading eastbound with no problems. However, what he didn’t realize upon his westbound approach was the overpass has a different height clearance depending on which direction you approach it from. Driving east, the driver had just enough room with a clearance of 14 feet and eight inches – but heading west, the clearance shrinks to 14 feet and four inches.
It’s only a four-inch difference, but it was still enough to send the May Avenue bridge collapsing onto the expressway below, temporarily trapping the trucker beneath heaps of debris. Fortunately, the trucker emerged unharmed after being freed by emergency response crews. No one else was injured in the collapse.
Overpass Damage Repair After Oklahoma City Truck Accident Could Take Months
Engineers are still working to assess the damage and generate a plan for reconstruction. While the exact plan won’t be finalized until engineers have completed their evaluation, city officials have indicated plans to tear down and rebuild the fallen section of the bridge.
“Our goal,” said Wegner, “is to demolish the existing portion that’s damaged as quickly as possible, reevaluate the bridge and if we can open up road[s] that are not damaged we will do that very quickly.”
For the time being, detours have been set up to to redirect the flow of traffic around the accident site. However, city officials have said it could be months before the reconstruction is completed. In an effort to expedite repairs, the city, which owns the May Avenue bridge, has agreed to pay for the reconstruction costs now and accept reimbursement from insurance companies later. However, city officials have yet to release an estimate of how much reconstruction is expected to cost.
Officials from the Oklahoma City Police Department stated it’s possible that the driver who caused the collapse will receive a ticket.
With 3,776 structural deficiencies documented statewide as of 2015, Oklahoma has the third highest number of defective bridges in the United States. According to USDOT data, the only states with more deficient bridges are Iowa, with 5,025, and Pennsylvania, with 4,783. Missouri is a runner-up with 3,222.
While collapses like that which occurred over the Northwest Expressway are rare, Oklahoma’s huge number of bridge deficiencies puts Oklahomans at higher risk than drivers in virtually any other state. It’s incredibly fortunate that no one was harmed when the May Avenue bridge fell – but luck might not be on Oklahoma’s side the next time an accident like this occurs.
Contact Our Oklahoma City Auto Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation
While bridge collapses are uncommon, car accidents and truck accidents take place every day. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, there were more than 68,300 Oklahoma car accidents in 2014, resulting in more than 650 deaths and over 33,000 injuries. Sadly, many of these accidents could have been prevented had drivers not committed negligent errors like drinking while driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or texting while driving in Oklahoma.
If you or one of your family members was injured in a car accident on the Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City, or other locations in the Oklahoma City area, you may be able to get compensated for your medical bills, lost income, and other hardships resulting from the crash. With more than 75 years of combined experience handling auto accident claims in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City truck accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook are here to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Call our law offices at (405) 698-3040 right away to set up a free consultation with our Oklahoma personal injury attorneys. We handle automotive accidents on I-35, I-40, I-44, I-240, and other highways and major roads throughout the area.