Submitted by Arlen Davidian, Winslow, AR
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
the plot thickens!
I hope you
continue your quest for the truth.