I-40 Reports


Submitted by Arlen Davidian, Winslow, AR

Dear Sir:

On the morning of May 26, My wife, my son, his wife and my daughter were traveling to Oklahoma City to visit my brother.  We arrived at the off ramp to Webber’s Falls at a little before 8:30 in the morning and were detoured into town and across the Webber’s Falls bridge.

While waiting to make our crossing, my wife who was traveling in a car behind my son and me, came up and said that she had just heard on the radio the Webber’s Falls bridge had also been hit.  I quickly switched to the same station to which she was listening, but not another word was mentioned about this incident.

When we arrived at the intersection that led to the approach of the bridge, traffic was being allowed to cross in one direction only at a time.  Heavy trucks were being spaced out so as not to put too much of a load on the structure.   A group of cars and trucks were waved across the bridge, (I believe six at a time) by a Sheriff’s deputy who was directing traffic.  I was now the first car in line at the intersection and started talking with the deputy.  He said that he had been dispatched to the bridge site on I-40, and worked that area for about two hours, then was sent to direct traffic at the Webber’s Falls bridge.  While we were talking, he got a call on his radio and turned away from me to take the call.

When he finished the call, he came back to my car and said that I was to be the last vehicle to cross the bridge because, he told me, a barge had hit this bridge, a half mile UPSTREAM from I-40 a few hours earlier.  I asked what was going on and he said that an inspector was going to arrive in a few minutes and check out this bridge to determine if the damage by being hit had rendered it unsafe.

The deputy then got another call and he waved me and my wife’s car across the bridge.  We were the last cars to cross that I saw.

On the other side of the bridge we pulled into a convenience store to make a pit stop and get something to drink.  When I went to the counter a woman who looked like she had been deprived of the conveniences of home for a few days was standing beside me.  I started a light conversation with her and she began to tell me of what she knew.

She and her husband had been camping for several days under the Webber’s Falls bridge.  The morning of May 26 at approximately 1:30, they were sitting around a fire having a beer.  They heard a tug pushing barges down the river which was not unusual, but on this occasion they heard a rumbling crash and chunks of what they figured was concrete falling on the deck of the lead barge.  It was pitch black under the bridge so they could not see much except the light in the doghouse of the tug.  They heard the engines rev up and could see the outline of the barges as they moved back from the pillar of the bridge which the way they described it was not more than a hundred feet from where they were sitting.  The barge then slid past where they were sitting and they watched its outline as it moved on down the river.  The next morning they got up and looked around but could see no obvious signs of damage to the bridge. 

If I’m not mistaken their first knowledge of the collapse of the bridge was looking down the river and seeing the activity going on.  I’m not sure they could see the part of the bridge that had collapsed from the west side of the river where they were camped.  When they came to the store where I met them they heard the story of the bridge down stream for the first time.  While I was talking to the woman, her husband came up and he told the same story.

To further the mystery, I have been unable to find another word about the bridge upstream being hit.  Also, to my knowledge there has been no public interview of the captain of the tug or his crew.  It seems very strange to me that of the seven people on board none of them realized that they were getting more than 300 feet out of the channel or that the captain had collapsed.  Had it been dark at the time of the incident, there would have been a mitigating factor that would enter in, but by the time of the collision, it was well after sunup and had been light for about an hour.

From here, the plot thickens!

I hope you continue your quest for the truth.



J. Pippin Show Back