UPDATE: Hwy 79 re-opened at Neches River Bridge - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

UPDATE: Hwy 79 re-opened at Neches River Bridge

UPDATE 7:57 AM: TxDot tells us that Hwy 79 has been re-opened at the Neches River Bridge. All traffic is flowing freely at this time.

UPDATE 10:20 PM: A massive wreck off of Hwy 79 has left one man in critical condition Tuesday evening after his vehicle collided with an 18-wheeler carrying an oversized load. DPS predicts the stretch of 79 between Palestine and Jacksonville will remain closed until at least Wednesday afternoon.

Trooper Steven Crosby says this crash scene is a lesson in patience.

Everything was going according to plan until one driver decided he could not wait any longer. He did not pay attention to the pilot car who was warning vehicles to stop.

"We're talking about a couple of minutes until you cross the bridge and the whole ordeal could have been avoided," Crosby says.

Contractor's Cargo Company was in route to Monterey, Mexico where they were transporting a 150 ton presser. The Operations Manager, Michael Mitchell, of the company says the load was so large that it needed both a front escort and a rear escort.

"The front escort went ahead and got in the oncoming lane traffic and stopped all of the cars. The very first car, she was telling him to stop, well, he was getting mad so he went around her in the grass. And the reason she stopped him was because going across this bridge-we are about 20 feet wide, well the bridge is only about 25 feet wide. There is only enough room for us on the bridge," Mitchell says.

The lack of space on the narrow bridge forced the Honda Civic to collide with the trailer's steer bar, which veered the trailer into oncoming traffic. The trailer then drug the Honda along the guardrail until it eventually gave away, gravity taking hold of the Honda.

"The guy in the rear couldn't see what happened, all he saw was a car shoot vertical in the air," Mitchell says.

Mitchell offers one piece of advice that can make all the difference in situations like this.

"If you see an escort vehicle up there with an oversized load sign and they are asking you to stop, you need to listen to them. When you don't listen, this is the outcome of what happens," he says.

A timely lesson for anyone who may find themselves in a hurry.

UPDATE 11:32 AM: TXDOT is reporting that it could be as late as noon Wednesday before the Hwy 79 bridge is re-opened. It is going to take longer than first expected to remove the 18-wheeler wreckage from the bridge and until it is removed TXDOT crews cannot make a full assessment of the damage to the bridge.

The company that operates the 18-wheeler is going to have to bring in a crane from Longview to remove the truck and another hauler to get the load. This process, itself, could take until Wednesday morning.

TxDot will also have to replace the guard rail that was damaged in the accident before the bridge can be re-opened.


CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A wreck involving an 18-wheeler and a car has damaged a major bridge in Cherokee County.

Highway 79 is closed in both directions at FM 747 after a Honda Civic traveling eastbound struck the 18-wheeler carrying an oversized load just after 8:00 am, Tuesday. The load dragged the car over the guardrail and into the ditch.

The driver of the Civic was transported by ambulance to a Palestine hospital then flown to a Tyler hospital.

The extent of the injuries is not known at this time.

The Neches River bridge was heavily damaged in the accident.

According to TXDOT officials, the trailer of the 18-wheeler is hanging over an embankment at the eastbound entrance to the bridge, blocking one and a half lanes of traffic.

They tell us it will be at least eight hours before the highway will be re-opened.

Motorists are being advised to take FM 747 south to highway 84 to get to Palestine from Jacksonville.

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