Authorities investigate bridge collapse

News AASHTO Journal June 03, 2002
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Members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation are expected to seek $15-20 million to repair the I-40 bridge over the Arkansa

Members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation are expected to seek $15-20 million to repair the I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls in eastern Oklahoma that collapsed when it was struck by a barge. Authorities have confirmed 14 fatalities.


Investigation continues into the possible causes. The bridge carries 20,000 vehicles a day.


Officials of the National Transportation Safety Board were waiting to interview the captain of the tugboat, William Joe Dedmon, that was moving the barge. Dedmon told authorities shortly after the incident that he blacked out, causing the barge to travel outside the shipping channel of the river.


The Oklahoman reported that the NTSB had determined Dedmon got less than 10 hours of sleep during the 41 1/2 hours preceding the accident. The newspaper also quoted Coast Guard Lt. Natalie Magnino as saying federal regulations do not require a specific amount of sleep for a tugboat pilot, though they do specify that pilots must be on watch no more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period, except in an emergency.


The Associated Press reported the downed bridge had been reinforced within the shipping channel against possible boat contact with piers. However, NTSB representative George Black told AP that the risk of such incidents may rise as the traffic in, and tonnage of, river barges is increasing over time.



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