Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge

A delivery truck owned by Haynes Home Center, Morrilton, made a wrong turn while making a delivery in Perry County early Thursday morning. The driver drove the delivery truck onto and into the historic Wallace Bridge that spans the Fourche LaFave River, five miles below the Nimrod Dam.

The truck was loaded with lumber for a job site on the Wallace Bridge Road, west of Aplin. The direct route to the job site, approximately two miles south of Highway 60, would have taken the driver across the Wallace Bridge. To avoid the bridge, directions were given routing the trucks south on Highway 155 then to a county road on the south side of the river.

Approaching the job site, which was directly in front of the truck, the driver made a right turn which took him onto the bridge.

Photo taken by Tonya English of the Petit Jean Country Headlight

Load limit on the bridge built in 1908 was a maximum of 3 tons. The weight of the truck, lumber and lift caused the truck to break through the bridge floor of white oak timbers. The rig's combined weight of approximately 40,000 was six times the maximum limit.

The driver escaped the truck unharmed and was later taken into custody by Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery and charged with overweight vehicle and failure to obey official devices (sign). He is being held in Perry County Detention Center in lieu of $5,000 cash bond.

It became apparent Thursday afternoon that no quick solution was available. A myriad of issues made the retrieval of the truck problematic. The first order of business was to secure the bridge from any foot or vehicle traffic. Two large piles of rock were piled on each end of the bridge by the Perry County Road Department.

Early Friday morning structural engineer, Ed Riddick of Riddick Engineering, Little Rock, met with newly elected Perry County Judge Baylor House, to formulate a plan. Riddick represented EMC Insurance Co. of Kansas City, Mo., insurer of the Haynes Home Center truck. Judge House explained to Riddick that a plan of action must include preserving the structural integrity of the bridge.

A crane company in Benton, was contacted by Riddick. Jason Gault and Charlie Herring were sent to survey the situation and determine equipment needs. The two technicians from Dick Mooney Crane Rental determined a 120,000-pound, 114- foot crane would be necessary.

Early Saturday morning, the crane operator crew, led by Shane Gage, operations manager, began preparations for the extraction. [The crew placed] cable winches, which extended from the top of the bridge to both sides of the truck, to stabilize the truck.

Herring explained that the cable winches were for the safety of the crew. He said that the winches would not hold the truck, but would give crew members attaching cables an additional three seconds to escape should the bridge collapse further. Gault explained that the crane’s 104 feet of boom was capable of sustaining over 60,000 pounds.

Judge House, cognizant of the potential for an accident, arranged to have water rescue support. Standing by in a boat, the Faulkner County Fire and Rescue divers waited should the need arise.

Climbing under, over and around, crane crew members attached steel cables to the truck. Once the cables were secure, the crane lifted the truck to relieve pressure on the bridge.

Todd Haynes, owner of the truck, secured in a safety harness, handed lumber from the truck to an assembly line of workers. Hand unloading the truck took approximately one and one half hours.

When the lumber was removed, the crane effortlessly lifted the truck and lift from the bridge.

The Wallace Bridge became one of eight Arkansas properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the country’s official list of historically significant properties. The honor was announced by Arkansas Historic Preservation Program Director Frances McSwain on Thursday Aug. 14, 2008.

In 1908, the Virginia Bridge and Iron Co. was selected to build bridges over the Fourche LaFave River at Fourche, Houston, Aplin and Nimrod. It seems likely that the primary impetus for constructing the Wallace Bridge was to provide access to the woodlands south of the Fourche River.

The Fourche River Lumber Co. used the river as a means of floating logs to the mill at Bigelow. The bridge provided access to and from their logging areas to the river and to the railroad on the north side of the river.

The Southwestern Bridge Co. of Joplin, Mo., completed the work on the Wallace Bridge in 1908 at a cost of approximately $10,000.

The Wallace Bridge is a pinconnected, 10-panel Camelback Pratt through truss with a wooden deck.

The length of the largest span of the bridge is 180.1 feet, with a total length of 212.9 ft. The bridge was exemplary as the last remaining example of this type of bridge in Perry County and one of only three remaining in the state of Arkansas.

The Wallace Bridge sustained considerable damage. The AHPP, Department of Arkansas Heritage, the agency responsible for identifying evaluating, registering, and preserving the state’s cultural resources will determine criterion in the restoration of the damaged bridge.

The original article appeared in the January 28 2009 issue of the Petit Jean Country Headlight and can be found on the paper's website. The original appeared on Page 1 and is continued on Page 8. The condensed version is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Petit Jean Country Headlight.

Comments  (16)

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted June 9, 2010, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

The "Petit Jean Country Headlight" reports in the May 12, 2010 issue that repairs to the Wallace Bridge were completed. In that issue, a report on the county board meeting stated that Judge Baylor House, who has shepherded the bridge project from the time the truck broke though the deck, addressed the board.

[Judge] "House also informed the court members that the repairs on the Wallace Bridge are completed. He also advised that he had procured information that will allow him to purchase timbers for the remaining deck that needs to be replaced. He explained that at this time the finances are not available, but indicated that he hoped to see next year’s budget allow for the repairs. The deck portion damaged was approximately 30 feet of the 80 feet span. House also stated that the Arkansas State Highway Department will be inspecting the bridge and issue weight limits as well as reflective signage."

It's been a long year and a half, but the bridge survives and has quite an advocate in Judge House.

Incidentally, on the first page of that same issue, a photo shows Judge House signing a proclamation making May Historic Preservation Month in Perry County.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 23, 2010, by Anonymous

According to a January 20, 2010, front-page article from the Petit Jean Country Headlight, Mobley Contractors Inc. has been awarded a contract to repair the Wallace Bridge, using $220,898.28 in anticipated funds from a settlement with EMC Insurance, the insurance carrier for Haynes Home Center, which employed the truck driver who damaged the bridge.


Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted September 19, 2009, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

According to the August 19, 2009 edition of the Petit Jean Country Headlight, the project is still on.

In the article, reporting on a county board meeting, "The insurance company who is paying for the repairs due to damage caused by their client has to meet with attorneys to determine how the bidding process will proceed.

"[Judge Baylor] House stated that county attorney Chris Michaels and the Legislative office are keeping abreast of all issues and are trying to resolve them expeditiously.

"The estimated cost of repairs is $300,000."

It only took seconds for a moron to almost destroy the bridge, but for repairing it? The wheels of government turn very slowly.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted September 19, 2009, by Anonymous

"Riddick represented EMC Insurance Co. of Kansas City, Mo., insurer of the Haynes Home Center truck." So, it appears there is insurance to cover the property damage to the bridge caused by the truck? Any new updates? Will Perry County (or State Highway Department) hold Haynes liable for repairing the bridge?

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 10, 2009, by John Cross (jcross [at] fortsmithhome [dot] com)

Sorry, but have to say it- speaking of nimrods- the only reason this happened is because someone was too lazy or too stupid to go around. You could put a titanium deck on it, increasing the weight to load ratio- but still couldn't land a 747 on it. There is obviously no way they are going to do serious maintenance or upgrades to this or thousands of other bridges. Weight limits must be observed and minimal maintenance must be applied. I feel better now!

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 9, 2009, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

More often than not, steel stringers are often the first thing on a bridge to rust. So this fact may or may not have made a difference with an overweight truck. An open-grid metal deck is actually lighter than a wooden one, and lasts longer. The bridge looks to be steady, and like James said probably the wooden stringers were the only reason this happened.

Yeah J.R.- I chuckled about the Nimrod Dam thing too! I figure the driver probably felt like one.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 9, 2009, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

I'm not a structural engineer, nor do I play one on tv, but IMHO, the fact this bridge has a wooden deck might be what ultimately saved it. Had the bridge been "upgraded" to a steel (or worse, concrete) deck, it might be lying in the river with the truck.

The extra dead load of a deck, other than wood, would have reduced the bridge's live load significantly. In addition, steel and concrete do not deflect the way wood does. The wood deck gave way much the same way a shear pin saves an outboard motor when the prop hits a rock.

It's all an uneducated guess on my part and I invite an engineer to correct me if I am off base.

Also, did anyone else notice that the bridge is just downriver from the Nimrod Dam? You just can't make this stuff up!

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 8, 2009, by James Baughn (webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com)

The photos of the collapse show that the bridge has wooden stringers instead of steel. It looks like all of the stringers snapped in two at the middle of the panel (between the steel floor beams). The lack of running boards probably didn't help, but I think the real problem is the all-wooden deck. The good news is that the deck gave way before the trusses did, preventing even more serious damage.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 8, 2009, by Quinn Phelan (qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net)

Interesting how the weaker looking approach has running boards and it held 6X the max load. Wonder if he would have made it if the bridge deck had running boards - or if the whole structure would have folded and put truck and bridge in the river ? Maybe the lack of running boards on the bridge deck saved the bridge !

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 8, 2009, by Gene McCluney (mccluney [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

It looks to be just a "wood" issue with the floor "joists". I was under the impression that all wood decked bridges had to have their decks and floor joists replaced ever-so-often? I don't see any metal damage at all.

I guess modern practice is to not replace any wood?

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 7, 2009, by Sam Sawyer (sawyersps112 [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Today (Saturday Feb. 7) my brother and I drove to the Wallace Bridge to check out its condition after the truck over the posted weight limit fell partly below the deck a while back. (I bet the moron driving the truck "soiled" his pants, which is what he deserved - and more.) Attached are some photos, all taken from the south side of the bridge. Note the very friendly dog who visited us in one photo and the Christmas lights in another photo which had apparently been strung onto the bridge by some local residents. If it is decided to keep a span at this site, I hope they restore this old bridge built in about 1908 rather than tearing it down and building an ugly plain white concrete generic monstrosity.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 4, 2009, by Anonymous

I love how the weight limit sign is posted right there in the picture. Haha, Good catch by the photographer.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 4, 2009, by Anonymous

That's what happens when you hire illegal aliens who can't read English.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 4, 2009, by Anonymous

If the driver can't be held responsible, the company who employs the driver should be.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 4, 2009, by Gene McCluney (mccluney [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

It is idiotic that a driver with written instructions to NOT cross the bridge, and with posted weight limit signs at the bridge, would STILL drive across it. My only conclusion is that the driver CAN NOT READ ENGLISH. Literacy is so important, and sometimes our public education system does not do enough.

My buddy and I have photographed hundreds of vintage bridges in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Wallace bridge is one of the few wood decked bridges that does not have running boards. While the truck would still be forbidden due to weight, if the Wallace bridge had running boards over the deck, the weight of any vehicle would be spread out over a larger area of the deck, thus creating less localized stress on the wood deck. In any restoration of the bridge I would suggest that running boards be installed.

Truck Falls Through Wallace Bridge
Posted February 4, 2009, by John Cross (jcross [at] fortsmithhome [dot] com)

I hope the SOB driving that truck was fined, or is forced to pay for the repairs. Dream-on. In our bridgehunting Gene McCluney and I have seen where fires were built on bridges (and bridges destroyed by such fires), have seen where people have "burned" off their tires and impacted the bridge and where just careless drivers have collided with the structures due to poor driving skills or intoxication. Like this we have seen and read of bridges damaged or destroyed by people unwilling to take their overweight loads an alternate route. I guess you can tell it steams me. Public property and living museums damaged or destroyed by the careless or stupid. The Wallace Bridge is a great bridge site, I hope repairs are made.