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Driver injured after semi strikes Denver bridge

9:00 PM, Mar 25, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - A semi truck driver has been cited in an accident that shut down a portion of Interstate 25 in Denver for more than four hours Monday.

A semi truck, in the wrong lane, hit the Speer Boulevard overpass sending concrete flying onto the highway.

One woman was seriously hurt and police cited the truck driver for careless driving resulting in serious bodily injury, a misdemeanor charge.

Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation and Denver police closed southbound I-25 at Speer Boulevard at 11 a.m. and reopened the interstate by 3:15 p.m.

The overpass that was hit has minor damage but engineers say it's structurally safe and there is no danger to drivers below.

CDOT crews will make some minor repairs in the coming weeks.

For truckers, the risk of clipping an overpass is real and knowledge is critical, according to CDOT spokesperson Mindy Crane.

"Know the size of your load. The height, the width," Crane said.

Crane says signs are posted up and down I-25 telling truckers exactly how much room they have.

"We actually have signage about two miles back [from the Speer overpass]," Crane said.

The inner lanes of the Speer overpass clear 16 feet 8 inches, which is more than high enough for the truck involved in the accident, which had a height of 14 feet 4 inches.

The outer lanes are just 13 feet, so when the semi stayed in the far left lane the top of its trailer clipped the bridge.

"[It] brought down debris on several vehicles below," Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Jackson says chucks of concrete and metal damaged four cars and smashed through a woman's windshield.

"She has serious bodily injuries to her head," Jackson said.

Jackson says the woman is badly hurt but expected to survive.

Her two kids were in the back seat and were not hurt.

"They were fine. There was no injury," Jackson said.

9NEWS has learned the truck belongs to crane operator RMS Cranes, which has offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.

"Our biggest concern right now is for the lady who was injured. It looks like driver error. He shouldn't have been in that lane. He should've known better," RMA Safety director Rocky Wilson said.

Wilson says it was an "experienced driver," but didn't say how long he's been with the company.

CDOT says the Speer overpass is more than 60 years old, built in 1952.

Before the accident, the bridge scored a safety rating of 60.4 out of 100. 50 and below means the bridge needs to be replaced.

"It's not in poor condition, but it's getting close to that point," Crane said, adding CDOT will close any bridge deemed unsafe for traffic.

Crane says trucks have hit four bridges in the metro area in the last four months.

Crane says bridge collisions previously occurred at I-25 and East 88th Avenue, I-70 and I-270, and I-76 and Dahlia Street.

"Anytime a bridge is hit we are always going to inspect it. We're always going to make sure our bridges are safe," Crane said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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