Historic Paoli Bridge Collapses After Truck Attempts To Cross It, Charges Filed

A historic Paoli, Indiana bridge was destroyed on Christmas Day by a careless truck driver. Now, that individual may be facing criminal charges.

According to a report by WHAS11, 23-year-old Mary Lambright of Fredericksburg, Indiana, attempted to drive her massive truck across an old iron bridge when it collapsed. Fortunately, neither Lambright or her passenger — a 17-year-old cousin — were injured when the bridge gave way. However, when Lambright explained how she came to be in the unfortunate predicament to law enforcement officials, it was clear that the incident was caused by severely bad decision-making.

Lambright attempted to cross the old bridge on Friday because she intended to park her semi at the Paoli Walmart. However, she missed her exit. The truck driver reportedly attempted several maneuvers to get the truck turned around before she remembered the bridge. She told officers that she’d gone over the bridge before. However, she’d done so in a car. The Paoli bridge had a six-ton weight limit. Car weights vary, but many vehicles weigh between 1.3 and 1.5 tons. In other words, they aren’t nearly heavy enough to cause serious stress when crossing a bridge like this. Also, height isn’t going to be a factor, either.

Why Mary didn’t take these things into consideration is rather baffling. It sounds based on all reports as though the driver didn’t get out of her vehicle when she approached the bridge. Lambright also did not double-check the weight of her truck, and the fully loaded box trailer she was hauling against the six-ton limit. Had she done so, she would have learned before attempting this feat that her 30-ton vehicle was simply too heavy.

Making matters worse, the 53-foot box trailer was much too tall to allow for passage. As Mary Lambert attempted to cross the old Paoli bridge, the top of the trailer was torn open. The combination of height and weight proved too much for the bridge, which buckled and twisted under the weight of the semi-truck.

Both Mary and her cousin were able to get out of the truck safely.

In images of the resulting accident, it appears the truck was only able to make it halfway onto the Paoli bridge. Because of the nature of the incident, backing up was impossible. Emergency responders spent hours removing water bottles in the trailer, after which workers cut the bridge beams in order to free Lambright’s truck.

WAVE3 is reporting that in the aftermath of the bridge collapse, the truck driver is facing several charges. She’s already been cited for reckless operation of a tractor-trailer and disregarding a traffic control device and overweight on posted bridge.

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According to Orange County Law Enforcement’s official Facebook page, Mary Lambright received her commercial driver license (CDL) endorsement in May 2015. That means she’s not been a professional truck driver for a year yet. Reports indicate that at the time of the accident, Lambright was hauling water bottles for Louisville Logistics.

WAVE3 writes that the Paoli iron truss bridge “was built in 1880 by the Cleveland Bridge & Iron Company.” The bridge is completely impassable at the moment, and it’s not known if the bridge was destroyed beyond repair. As for the truck, law enforcement officials reportedly hauled the vehicle to Salem, Indiana, where it is being held pending an inspection by Indiana State Police.

Given the fact that Mary has not been driving for a year, some might blame this on inexperience. However, it’s clear that there were certain precautions that Lambright failed to make that ultimately lead to this disastrous situation. Do you think the driver should simply be fined or should she also face criminal charges?

[Image via Orange County Indiana Law Enforcement/Facebook]