Truckers, motorists trapped as U.S. bridge collapses

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WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. — A barge hit a bridge on I-40 collapsing a 152-metre section of roadway sending nearly a dozen vehicles and their drivers into the water Sunday.

Officials expected to find five to 12 bodies in the submerged vehicles stuck in the Arkansas River, but say it would likely be later today or tomorrow before the victims could be removed.

“We haven’t recovered any of the bodies, but there are going to be fatalities,” Lieut. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, tells local media.

Cranes were brought in to stabilize the two bridge sections as divers struggled against a strong current in the murky water Sunday afternoon.

Josef Blann, a diver with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, says authorities believe 15 vehicles went into the river, including 12 cars, two tractor-trailer rigs and a horse trailer. However, conflicting reports suggest the total could be as low at nine.

The Magnolia Marine Transport Co. in Vicksburg, Miss., says the company’s 32-metre-long tugboat, the Robert Y. Love, was pushing two barges when the accident occurred. None of the seven crew members was injured.

Lake patrol units interviewed the captain of the barge Sunday morning — it is thought he may have had a seizure and blacked out just before the collision.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate.

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