The Brinkley Bridge

Wayne County News
September 24, 1970

Two men in truck escape serious injury
Brinkley Bridge Falls

(A Special Report)

The David Brinkley Memorial Bridge on U.S. 52 over Twelve Pole Creek at Wayne collapsed about 9 p.m. Tuesday, plunging a tractor-trailer rig hauling an earth shovel boom into the creek. Two men in the truck escaped with minor injuries.

A Wayne County sheriff's spokesman said a school bus carrying the Vinson High School B team football squad had passed over the bridge shortly before the accident. The team had played a game at Wayne.

State Department of Highway officials from Charleston were on the scene by midnight completing plans for detouring traffic on Craig Road and Asbury Road to by-pass the fallen span. A highway official said these two roads would be improved starting today to better handle the increased traffic.

The south end of the narrow 63-year-old span pulled loose from the abutment, dropping the truck into the 10-foot deep creek at a 45-degree angle. The north end of the bridge remained attached on the other side.

Treated and released at Cabell-Huntington Hospital in Huntington were the occupants of the truck, William Chancey, 32, of Ripley, who suffered a sprained neck, and Paul Baylous, 43, of Milton, who had a sprained back.

Employed by Fredrick Engineering Co. of Huntington, they crawled out of the rig's cab which had sunk to window-level in the creek, and walked up the sloping bridge floor to the north end of the span.

Although officials as of early today had not yet determined exactly what had happened, police said it appeared the earth shovel boom apparently caught a cross-member of the bridge's superstructure, pulling it from both sides.

Department of Highway officials estimated the weight of the truck, trailer and shovel boom at more than 20 tons.

A Highway Department weight crew was to arrive at the scene early today for what an assistant to Highway Commissioner William Ritchie said was to check the weight of the rig and load when it is pulled from the creek.

The load limit on the bridge was increased by the Department of Highways from five tons to 10 tons in April after cables were installed and other repairs made to strengthen it.

Planning already was well advanced on a new bridge to replace the Brinkley structure and core drillings had been made.

Robert D. Nelson, Democratic member of the House of Delegates and candidate for the State Senate, arrived at the scene of the bridge collapse shortly after it happened. He issued this statement:

"The collapse of the Brinkley Bridge again points up the vital need for the Department of Highways to immediately undertake a program to replace all one-lane bridges located on state and federal highways in this state."

Nelson, who has been a leading advocate for replacement of the fallen Brinkley Bridge, predicted that other bridges in Wayne County on U.S. 52 and W.Va. Route 75 might fall unless immediate action is taken to replace them. Nelson said residents of Wayne County have been urging the Department of Highways to take action to replace the county's one lane bridges, but with exception of the decision to replace the Brinkley Bridge little has been done.

Nelson said: "The traveling public and taxpayers of this state can no longer tolerate one-lane, worn out, dilapidated bridges in this state. It's a sad state of affairs when school children must unload from school buses and walk across dangerous bridges and re-board the buses en route to school. That's exactly what's happening now on certain bridges in Wayne County." "How long must the people put up with such conditions?" "Must we have more Silver Bridge and Brinkley Bridge disasters before something is done?" "I urge the Department of Highways to establish a priority timetable for replacing all on-lane bridges in Wayne County and implement the timetable immediately."

As for detours to handle traffic now, highway officials said heavy trucks would have to use Asbury Road, a dirt road east of the bridge, while other vehicles could use Craig road as well as Asbury. Craig Road, which enters U.S. 52 about three miles north of Wayne comes out on the west side of the bridge.

Brinkley bridge has gained national and state spotlight on several occasions as well as local criticism.

Built in 1907, the span gained national attention during the 1960 presidential primary campaign between John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey.

In a televised new(s)cast, NBC-TV news commentator David Brinkley (for whom the bridge was renamed) let the people of the United States hear the bridge rumble by putting a microphone down to the bridge floor as vehicles crossed. Within days the bridge was closed to traffic, causing some Wayne Countians to proclaim the telecast accomplished almost in hours what they'd been trying to get done for years.

Repairs were finished June 17, 1961, and Brinkley was there again:this time to dedicate the bridge in his name.

The bridge made headlines again earlier this year when a team of state police and Department of Highways weight and measure men began stopping trucks and buses in enforcement of the load limit.

Efforts to pull the truck out were expected to start early today. Extra signs to mark detours were being brought in by the Department of Highways from Kanawha County. Law enforcement and highway officials remained at the scene throughout the night checking damage and making plans to cope with the situation, including what to eventually do with the fallen structure.