East Texas bridge collapses, officials assess damage

Bridge collapse from Chopper 7.
Bridge collapse from Chopper 7.

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A worker moving a huge piece of mining equipment, knocks out an East Texas bridge Friday morning.

The Rusk County Office of Emergency Management says the bridge on Highway 322 collapsed near the TXU Luminent mining operation around 9:30 Friday morning.

The collapse caused a frightening situation for at least two East Texas drivers.

Investigators say a worker hauling a massive track hoe apparently slammed into the supports under the TXU bridge, causing the north side or west bound lanes to collapse.

"It's pretty clear what happened the things still sitting there," said Larry Krantz with TexDot. "Right now, it looks like that track hoe is the only thing that's holding the bridge up."

Witnesses say the track hoe was not fully retracted as it was being towed and knocked out several supports.

"I think everybody's pretty familiar with what the expectations are and what the clearances are on these structures," said Krantz.

As the road began to collapse, troopers say two truck drivers were crossing the bridge and swerved at the last minute narrowly escaping.

"We still need the equipment to get out of the way to know the true extent of the damage done back towards the road from the middle of the bridge structure so we probably won't know that until we get some of the removal done," said Krantz.

The lignite operation will be shut down while the bridge is out, and mining officials said they are conducting their own investigation.

"We're thinking best case scenario is we just remove a couple of beams and put a deck back on it," explained Krantz. "Worst case scenario is the whole thing needs to be replaced and what needs to be done will dictate how long 322 will be closed with a detour."

Repairs will come with a hefty price-tag. All the leg work otherwise is going to be conducted by Luminent Mines, including the funding.

Luckily, there were no injuries.

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