Tags: Death | Toll | Rises | Oklahoma | Bridge | Collapse

Death Toll Rises to 13 in Oklahoma Bridge Collapse

Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM

The latest victims were found in two vehicles lifted from the river by a crane, according to Lt. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He said 10 cars and trucks have been found so far, and there might be more in the river with bodies.

"We are continuing the search," he said. "We had had a weather system pass through a while ago with a little bit of lightning but we are still going."

The towboat Robert Y. Love was pushing two empty asphalt barges upstream about 7:45 a.m. Sunday when one of the barges struck a bridge support, knocking a 600-foot section of the span into the river and sending an unknown number of vehicles into the water.

Sonar equipment was brought in to help divers locate the vehicles, some of which are stacked on top of each other. A large crane was then used to lift the wreckage from the river so the bodies can be removed and transferred to a morgue in Tulsa for identification.

Earlier Tuesday, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board leading the investigation said members of the towboat crew appear to support reports that the captain blacked out just before one of his barges struck the bridge.

The crew told investigators there was an impact and then a general alarm and emergency whistle signal, warnings that normally precede an impact, the NTSB's George Black told ABC's "Good Morning America" show.

"That would imply that the captain was incapacitated in some way and was awakened by the impact and then attended to the emergency signaling," he said.

Black said the crew's testimony "would confirm some incapacitation" of the captain just before the collision. The NTSB was to formally interview the captain, Joe Dedmon, a 61-year-old veteran river pilot, later Tuesday.

Dedmon was alone at the bridge of the tugboat after coming on duty about 5:40 a.m., according to the boat owner, Magnolia Marine Transportation Co. Preliminary tests of Dedmon have found no evidence of alcohol or any other drugs, the company said.

The only survivors were four people immediately pulled from the water by fishermen participating in a bass tournament on the river and nearby residents.

I-40, one of the few east-west Interstate routes in the nation, normally handles about 20,000 cars a day through eastern Oklahoma. The collapse forced highway officials to divert traffic onto secondary state highways.

Gov. Frank Keating said repairs on the bridge might take as long as six months. Local officials expect a severe economic impact in the area. I-40 is a major cross-country freight route, according to truckers who travel the highway.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The latest victims were found in two vehicles lifted from the river by a crane, according to Lt. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He said 10 cars and trucks have been found so far, and there might be more in the river with bodies. We are continuing the search, ...
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2002-00-28
Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM
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