Bridge collapses near engineering building

By By Victoria Johnson

By Victoria Johnson

Students returned to school Monday to find a nearly collapsed bridge near the Merrill Engineering Building.

A forklift fell through the bridge Friday morning at about 11 a.m. Its driver was heading to the Warnock Engineering Building construction site when the forklift fell about 10 feet into a small ravine. The driver, whose name has not been released, was not injured.

“It just caved in,” said Kent Walter, project manager for Jacobsen Construction. “It was rusted through-in a state of disrepair.”

Walter said Jacobsen workers had been instructed not to use the bridge.

“The operator is an experienced forklift operator, but he’d only been here a few weeks and he missed the communication,” he said.

Nate Gerlach, a Jacobsen carpenter, said workers frequently drive over the bridge in forklifts, trucks and other vehicles.

“Our electricians and the pipe fitter have driven across it,” he said. “But I guess it was (the forklift driver’s) lucky day. He was belted in so he didn’t get bucked out or anything.”

Students walking by the wreckage on Monday peered on in curiosity and were forced to walk down the gully to get around the bridge.

“Before Fall Break, it was fine,” said Lionel Lewis, a senior in biology. “But when I came back, it was collapsed. I’m glad I wasn’t on it. I used it a couple times a day.”

John Kingston, a sophomore in computer science, was nearby when the accident occurred.

“I saw it right after it happened- around 11 (a.m.)-and the forklift was still there,” he said. “I went to go study and then when I came back, the forklift was gone.”

Walter is unsure whether the bridge will be reconstructed or torn down, but he said his superiors are discussing the options with U administrators.

Melinda Hom-Williams

Engineering majors Chris Morrow, Rylan Hayes and Michelle Bass examine the remains of a bridge near the Merrill Engineering Building, which collapsed when a forklift tried to drive over it Friday.