Bridge accident kills one, injures three in Sealy

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At approximately 9:50 a.m. on July 7, the U.S. Hwy 90 bridge in Sealy collapsed onto Hwy 36 crushing a white Chevrolet vehicle by tons of concrete killing a 12-year-old passenger, one of three in the car.

The driver of the Chevrolet Malibu, Leah Bullock, 35, and mother of two children who were travelling with her, sustained serious but nonlife threatening injuries and was airlifted by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.

Bre’in Bullock, 12, was pronounced dead at the scene by Austin County JP 3 Cheryl Kollatschny. Breandon Gardner, 9, who was riding in the back seat, escaped injury.

A Texas Disposal Systems garbage truck was travelling southbound on Hwy 36 with its boom raised. The truck hit the warning markers at Hwy 36 and 10th Street, which caution the bridge height at 13 feet 9 inches, according to a driver who was following close behind and recording the incident with a Go Pro camera.

The TDS truck’s boom slammed into the north side of the Hwy 90 overpass causing the collapse. The truck driver, Carl Weige, 72, also sustain injuries and was taken to Memorial Hermann as well.

Stacy Schmitt, director of communications for TDS, released a statement on behalf of the company: “We regret a TDS truck was involved in an incident impacting an overpass in Sealy, TX. We have been told there was a fatality and are saddened by the loss resulting from this incident. Our deepest sympathies go to the family members and friends. An investigation is currently underway

by local authorities.

TDS is cooperating fully and will also be conducting its own investigation. The truck driver, as reporter to us, did not sustain major injuries. We will be in communication with the community and public as relevant information becomes available.”

David Glessner of TxDOT from Austin’s media relations headquarters said, “First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

Our condolences go out to those who were affected by it.”

Glessner reiterated that the accident “was not a bridge collapse.” After the bridge was struck by the TDS truck, that debris fell upon the passenger vehicle.

“It’s going to be closed from Silliman (Street) to Atchison (Street) indefinitely,” City Manager Larry Kuciemba said last week.

TxDOT arrived on site at the end of last week and planned to cut out a section of the damaged area to prevent any further falling debris. Kuciemba encouraged them to cut out more.

“They’re looking at two months from now and it’s going to be going out for bid,” Kuciemba said of the fast advancing TxDOT plans to overhaul the Hwy 90 overpass, which is planned for construction in 2017.

On Friday, Kuciemba spoke with TxDOT Area Engineer Ryan Simper.“ If you’re going to get somebody to cut a section out, why don’t you just get them to cut it out to the middle,” Kuciemba said he asked of Simper. “I’m just hoping they will cut the whole thing out,” Kuciemba said. “Then we won’t have to worry about the bridge over (Hwy) 36 until they put the new one in.”

After multiple phone conversations with Texas Department of Transportation representatives Friday afternoon, Kuciemba said he was told “the bridge is structurally sound.”

Originally he said, “The ladder part of [this] week, (TxDOT) they [were] going to open up Old Hwy 90 and one lane of traffic would be controlled by signals, just as it was two years ago.

By Monday, Kuciemba spoke with Simper once again and a decision was made by TxDOT to remove the entire bridge crossing Hwy 36. At 7:30 a.m., TxDOT employees shut down the road and began work.

“Since it would take considerable repairs and money to get the US 90 bridge temporarily open, TxDOTs bridge division is recommending removing what is left of the current bridge,” said Cari Hensley, Yoakum District’s public information officer, in an email on Monday.

SCR Construction was charged with the bridge’s demolition and crews worked through the night. "I don’t know if they’re going to advance the project,”

Kuciemba said, in regards to the highway overpass project, but with the Hwy 90 overpass totally gone it almost seems like a forgone

conclusion.

The bridge was built in 1936. It was last inspected April 2015, and it passed inspection after a similar accident damaged the bridge.

Last week, Veronica Beyer of TxDOT, apart of the onsite investigation

team, said there are multiple investigations ongoing, including her department and the Sealy Police Department as well.

“I think it’s real important to keep in mind what happened today (July 7),” Beyer said. “There was a Texas Disposal Systems truck that pass an early warning system.”

“Prior to this, the bridge was safe, had passed inspections and was in use,” she said. “What resulted today was because of this truck that was oversized and ran into the bridge.”

While Beyer sent out condolences of her own and also on behalf of TxDOT as well to the families impacted by this tragedy, she was asked whether TxDOT may advance its development plans for the Hwy 90 overpass, but said, “It’s too early to say right now. I’m not going to speculate, and it’s just too early to tell how it will affect those plans.”

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