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Big rig does big damage to Mt. Orne Bridge



BRIDGE_CLOSED
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The Mount Orne Bridge is closed indefinitely after a tractor trailer severely damage the structure last week. (Photo by Melissa Grima) (click for larger version)
June 02, 2010
LANCASTER — A tractor trailer driver's failure to heed a height restriction has resulted in serious damage to an historic covered bridge.

The town owned, 99 year-old, Mount Orne Covered Bridge was seriously damaged last Wednesday evening when a California tractor trailer driver, Seryozha Nkoghosyan of Glendale, Calif., who goes by the Americanized name "Sergo Niko," crossed the Howe truss bridge from Lancaster to Lunenburg, Vt.

"The bridge is racked," said Lancaster Chief of Police John Gardiner.

Chief Gardiner said that according to witness statements, a motorist in Vermont noticed the tractor trailer when the driver stopped to pull splintered wood off his rig near the intersection of River Road and Route 2. The passerby called police and a Concord, Vt., constable stopped the driver. He was then escorted back over the river into Lancaster where he was arrested and charged with conduct after an accident, over-height, and having no plate on his trailer. He was released on $500 personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Lancaster District Court on June 30.

Chief Gardiner said that Mr. Niko had an empty trailer after dropping off his last load in Maine, and was on his way to pick up the next one in Vermont. Mr. Niko was driving for Rush Freight, LLC, also of Glendale.

The impact of the trailer colliding with the bridge caused visible damage to the top of the bridge. Timbers were broken, and stabilizing steel rods along the top trusses were severely bent. On Thursday, debris could be seen near the entrance of the bridge including splintered wood and a large piece of the trailer. The sign at the entrance to the bridge lists the clearance as 12-feet, 9-inches, while the maximum clearance is 13-feet, 3-inches.

Town manager Ed Samson said that the damage to the bridge will be assessed by state engineers, but the freight company does have insurance. He said that the bridge will be closed for an undetermined amount of time. "There will be an extensive inspection," Mr. Samson explained, noting that the underside of the bridge has to be examined as well for any possible damage.

An adjustor from the Local Government Center, the town's insurance carrier, is coordinating with the engineer for an assessment scheduled for this morning (Wednesday), June 2. Mr. Samson added that although a cost has not yet been determined to fix the bridge, as word spreads calls have been pouring in from firms interested in securing the repair job.

The Mount Orne Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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