Part of US 169 bridge collapses in Fort Dodge

Published 12:03 pm Monday, April 25, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Part of a bridge in Fort Dodge collapsed as it was being demolished Monday, sending two workers who had been standing atop the structure tumbling to the ground but leaving them with only minor injuries, officials said.

The workers were on the deck of the U.S Highway 169 bridge when it fell from beneath them about 8:30 a.m., Fire Chief David Luers said. The men fell about 20 feet.

The workers are employees of Minnowa Construction Inc., of Harmony, Minn, and Project Manager Ben Thorson said they suffered only minor injuries. One suffered a cut on his forehead. The other injured his wrist.

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Thorson did not identify the workers but said they were taken to a local hospital where they were being treated.

He said the bridge was being removed as part of a bridge replacement project.

“The end span, the beam buckled but we don’t have all the details yet,” Thorson said. “We don’t know what happened. We do this all the time.”

One worker had just climbed out of an excavator and was talking about the day’s plans with another worker when the collapse occurred, Thorson said.

A third employee was at the construction site but wasn’t injured.

Norm McDonald, director of bridges and structures for the Iowa Department of Transportation, said the span that collapsed was 66 feet long.

“Something happened and one of the beams must have given way,” McDonald said.

The center portion of the bridge, which crossed what local residents call 2nd Ave, had already been removed and traffic was passing by on the street when the collapse on the span on the south end of the bridge occurred. The street was closed while crews worked to clean up debris and officials investigated the collapse.

“Without the deck, those piers can tip and lean a little,” McDonald said. “We want to make sure those piers are OK and that things are stable before we open the street.”

A photo of the collapse provided by the fire department showed the excavator resting at about the point where bridge beam broke.

“We’ll be looking at the load of the excavator and where it was located,” McDonald said. “We’re not sure if it had anything to do with it.”