Trucker Gets Jail Time For Destroying Historic Bridge

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana. Photo taken by James Baughn

Trucker to serve six months for driving overweight truck across the Gospel Street Bridge. Bridge being rebuilt.

INDIANAPOLIS-  Sometimes the price to pay for ignorance can be the most painful.  When a person misses a turn-off and tries a short cut, it turns out to be the longest odessy of her life. For Mary Lambright, the trucker who drove across the historic Gospel Street Bridge in a semi-truck laden with bottled water on Christmas Day 2015, dropping the structure built by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in 1880 into Lick Creek, that short cut she took will cost her time and then some.

According to multiple resources, Indiana District Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced Ms. Lambright to six months in prison. In addition, she is to pay $2000 in damages to the structure, to be paid once the bridge is rebuilt. Ms. Lambright, 24, and a 17-year old passenger missed a turn-off enroute to Wal-mart and took a short-cut that led to the bridge on Christmas Day. Not knowing what six tons meant on the sign, she continued to cross the bridge at 30 mph, resulting in the top trailer being sheered off by the bridge’s overhead bracings and the bridge collapsing into the creek. Neither of the two were injured. The trucking company, based in Louisville, later went out of business because of liability claims involving the bridge but not before having fired Lambright right after the incident. Ms. Lambright apoligized to the court at the time of the sentencing, stating: I’m really, really sorry about what happened and, if I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t be so stupid.

The Gospel Street Bridge is currently being rebuilt, piece-by-piece, to its original form, using the money provided by the insurance company that had once protected the trucking company she used to work for. The bridge is expected to be completely rebuilt and open to traffic by the beginning of July. With the sentencing handed down and the eventual return of the historic bridge to a small Indiana community, it will provide a closure to an incident that has been a focus of discussion about how to better train semi-truck drivers (how to avoid restricted areas and drive safely and responsibly), especially as the Gospel Street Bridge had served as the key artery into the business district. For those who have close ties to the bridge, they will be the lucky ones as they will win their historic bridge back- something that seldom happens to historic bridges in the US in this use-damage-throw away age of travel and consumption.

Author’s Note: What do you know about the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in terms of its years in business, its founder and examples of other bridges built? The Chronicles is putting together a bridge builders directory that will contain a summary of the history of the companies and engineers who contributed to almost 200 years of bridge building in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. If you have any information about this company, please contact Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. A link will also suffice. You can find this directory on its wordpress page by clicking here.