Paoli Bridge Collapse: Truck Driver Charged For Ignoring Weight Limit Sign, Said She Didn’t Know How Many Pounds Equaled 6 Tons

A Paoli bridge collapsed after a tractor-trailer drove onto it, and the truck driver involved in the crash is now facing criminal charges. The historic bridge, which is located in southern Indiana, was completely destroyed during the incident. A math error appears to have been a contributing factor in the driver’s decision to cross the landmark Lick Creek bridge.

An investigation into the Indiana bridge collapse remains ongoing, but preliminary reports alleged that the truck driver went onto the Paoli bridge in a tractor-trailer that weighed too much to cross over the waterway route. The driver, Mary Lambright, 23, attempted to use the circa 1880 Lick Creek bridge on Christmas evening. She was reportedly hauling a 53-foot trailer that was carrying about 43,000 pounds of bottled water when the bridge collapsed beneath her wheels.

The loud noise as the Paoli bridge collapsed immediately attracted the attention of those in the vicinity. Many of the onlookers yanked out their cellphones to snap photos and videos of the twisted metal, which had held sentimental and historic significance in the town, WDRB News reports. Bridge collapse witness Ed Scott told local reporters that he cried when he saw what had happened.

Mary Lambright reportedly told law enforcement investigators that she had missed her exit and was planning on parking her semi truck at the Paoli Walmart. After she tried unsuccessfully several times to turn the big rig around and pull into the local Walmart, she decided to attempt to cross the Paoli Bridge instead. The iron bridge reportedly had a posted six-ton weight limit and a no trucks allowed sign. Lambright and a minor passenger were able to exit the semi truck unharmed after the accident, according to a report by the Dubois County Free Press.

“As you can tell they went in way too fast, clipped the top of the trailer, ripped it back about a third of the way back,” Paoli Police Chief Randall Sanders said.

It took first responders several hours to unload the thousands of bottles of water before they could begin investigating the accident and attempt to remove the tractor-trailer from the Paoli bridge. Lambright currently faces only a $135 fine for ignoring the posted weight limit and no trucks sign, Chief Sanders also noted.

The downtown Lick Creek bridge will be closed for several weeks and possibly months before any efforts to rebuild the local landmark can begin. Lambright told law enforcement investigators that she did see the weight limit and “no semis” sign but also said that she did not know “how many pounds six tons was.” The tractor-trailer she was driving reportedly weighed close to 30 tons at the time of the Indiana bridge collapse.

The truck driver being blamed for the Paoli bridge collapse also told police officials that she was uncomfortable backing up the semi truck and that fear played into her decision to drive across the bridge. Mary Lambright is a new tractor-trailer driver, and she reportedly earned her Commercial Drivers License (CDL) endorsement in early May. She is currently employed by Louisville Logistics.

Once the water bottle removal and on-site investigation were completed, the tractor-trailer was towed off the Paoli bridge and hauled to another location, where it will be inspected by Indiana State Police investigators. Lambright has been cited for a misdemeanor charge of reckless operation of a tractor-trailer, disregarding a traffic control device, and overweight on posted bridge violation.

Do you think more extensive criminal charges and damages should be levied against the truck driver for ignoring the weight limit sign and causing the collapse of the Paoli bridge?

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