‘Like a bad movie or bad TV show’

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Kevin Crago recalls the moment his pickup sank into darkness as the Bergholz bridge collapsed under him

By Eric Lowe

CCM Contributor

Bergholz resident Kevin Crago recalls his drive home from work early last Tuesday morning as something like a bad movie or TV show.

Crago was driving his truck on SR 164 heading into the village from Amsterdam shortly before 5 a.m. when he began to cross a bridge, which is under construction. Suddenly, the bridge collapsed beneath him.

“I got about half way and the bridge gave out. It was like a bad movie or a bad TV show,” Crago told the Messenger at the scene.

 Crago was banged up, bruised up and slightly angry because, he said, this bridge was just deemed safe to travel the day prior.

“Sometime during midday, an engineer came out and looked at the bridge and approved it for public use, otherwise, it would have been shut down yesterday,” he said. “My main thought about this is, what if it was a school bus or an ambulance, or what if it was an old person crossing this bridge?”

Except for the being restricted to one line, Crago said the bridge looked normal on his way to work the evening prior to the collapse.

According to information released by ODOT later in the day announcing a road closure and detour, the structure was a two-span, box-beam bridge with an overall length of 96 feet. It was originally built in 1940 and underwent a major rehabilitation in 1983. The current project was a complete replacement, scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2021.

“I saw it fall in front of me, I hit the brakes, and there was nothing to be done,” he recalled. “As I was driving on the bridge, I made it halfway before it fell. At that point in time, there wasn’t much snow on the road and I got out of my truck because of the falling debris. There ended up being a Ford SUV that was coming southbound on 164 that I thought was going to drive in there.

“I was half way from my truck to the ramp of the road. I was coming back from getting my cell phone because I was going to try and call somebody, but there is no service down there. I saw the SUV coming and thought, oh #!*%, this is going to be bad, but they stopped thank goodness. They turned around and went back the other way,” he recalled.

Crago said after Ondusko arrived at the scene in an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) salt truck.

“Craig used the radio in his truck to call in the incident,” Crago told the Messenger  via phone later in the week from his home.

 State Highway Patrol and Bergholz EMS were dispatched to the scene. Bergholz EMS had crossed the bridge about 30 minutes prior to its collapse, responding to a call in Amsterdam.

Crago said he was checked out at Weirton Medical Center and diagnosed with whiplash and cervical sprain.

Crago continues to have constant thoughts about the accident.

“You don’t expect a road to just fall out from under you,” he stated. “Till it happens, you really don’t know how you’re going to feel afterward. I’ve tried to recall it just after it collapsed, but it’s difficult to do it. I saw the railroad tracks and then I could see the dirt under the tracks and thought, ‘Oh my God’. I hit the brakes and then next thing I know there was an impact. Until my truck was pulled out, I thought it was ok, just banged up. I didn’t know it was totaled.”

The truck was loaded onto a rollback truck and delivered to Crago’s house at his expense, costing him $300.

“The truck was my only means to get to work. I have already had to take a couple days off work,” he said. He is employed at KHB Lonestar in Wintersville.

“Nobody has made contact with me from the company working on the bridge or state (ODOT) officials. Probably because someone’s jobs on the line, and they are just hoping it’s not theirs. They shut it down the day before because, on the Bergholz side of the bridge, on the left hand side where it meets the bank, there was nothing under it. It was starting to cave in.”

A Messenger reporter received a call Monday afternoon about the condition of the bridge and drove to the site, where they witnessed construction workers frantically working on the bridge during a steady rain.  A construction worker blocked the road completely at the former site of Allen’s Box Company, rerouting traffic back toward Amsterdam SR 164. The bridge was re-opened to one lane later in the day.

ODOT officials said they would immediately begin working on a plan to expedite replacement of the bridge. Until a new bridge is constructed, ODOT is using the following detour: SR 524 north to SR 39, SR 39 west to SR 43, SR 43 south to SR 164 in Amsterdam, and the reverse route.

Lauren Bell, public information officer for ODOT District 11 told The Messenger Monday they are working as quickly as possible to clean up the rubble.

“We are working with the railroad and the contractor to remove the existing structure and on plans to move forward with construction of a new structure as quickly and safely as possible. We should have a timeline for the process in a couple weeks,” she said.

A. P. O’Horo of Youngstown is the general contractor for the bridge replacement project.

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