Crews to begin repairing historic bridge in Paoli

PAOLI, Ind. (WDRB) -- A historic bridge in southern Indiana collapses in just seconds. Officials say the semi-truck crossing it was too heavy and too big to be driving across the bridge.

It was quite the sight to see on Christmas Day as dozens of Paoli residents could not believe their eyes. Many pulled out their cameras and cell phones and took pictures to save the memory.

“When I first laid eyes on it, I was like holy cow,” Marty Hill said.

“I mean, I'll tell you the truth. I cried when I seen that. I mean it's been there ever since I've been here,” Ed Scott said.

The downtown bridge over Lick Creek, built in 1880, now leans to one side after a semi tried passing through.

“What were they thinking?” asked Donna Hill.

Signs before the bridge show no trucks allowed and the weight limit is at six tons. Paoli Police Chief Randall Sanders says the truck carrying thousands of bottles of water weighed about 35 tons. That's nearly six times the posted limit.

“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,” Chief Sanders said.

The accident happened around 12:15 p.m. Emergency responders spent several hours unloading the water bottles to lighten the load before they could begin the clean-up.

“They really don't make a book on how to do this,” Chief Sanders said.

Workers began cutting the bridge beams Friday evening to free the truck. No one was injured in the accident, and Chief Sanders says, as of right now, the woman driving the truck only has to pay $135 for disregarding a posted sign.

“It destroyed our landmark here in Paoli, so it's kind of sad,” Hill said.

“It's one of the few things left in Paoli that’s historical ... that was in good shape ... It’s just sad seeing it like it is,” Paoli Town Council President Michael Harkness said.

Many hope the bridge can be rebuilt to look like it once did.

“I go across the bridge to go to church, and I come back across. That's my favorite bridge. Every Sunday I go across,” Scott said.

The clean-up is expected to take hours. Officials say the bridge will be closed for weeks, if not months.

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