Flatbed’s load hits bridge in Belpre

BELPRE – A backhoe was knocked off a flatbed at the train trestle over Main Street Thursday afternoon and fell atop a couple cars, injuring a woman.

The accident happened around 4:45 p.m. in the 200 block of Main Street at the trestle.

The woman in a red KIA Rio was removed on a backboard from the car by paramedics and taken to the hospital. She was coherent and speaking, witnesses said.

Her name and condition were unavailable at press time.

Following behind the trailer was Richard Randolph of Texas, who is working in the area. Randolph was driving a Chevrolet Envoy.

“We were all stopped at the light. I heard a loud bang,” he said. “I looked up to see the backhoe flying at me.”

The backhoe fell atop the front of the rental Envoy. Randolph was uninjured.

Traffic coming off the Belpre Bridge onto Washington Boulevard was diverted away from Main Street at the intersection.

Courtney Bee of Parkersburg stopped because one of the cars involved in the accident looked like one of someone she knew.

“It wasn’t,” she said.

She know that the bridge trestle has been a concern for motorists for years.

Bee said it needs to be better posted on what the clearance is.

“It is also the truck driver’s responsibility to know the height of his equipment and stuff,” Bee said.

Mitch Greathouse of Belpre said there are signs listing the clearance coming off the bridge.

“There are warnings and foot clearances, but people just don’t look at them,” he said. “There is not much distance from the end of the bridge to the trestle for people to react.”

The trestle has been a traffic issue, people said.

“I grew up around here and it has always been a problem,” Greathouse said. “Semis get stuck and they have to let the air out of the tires to get under it and through many times.”

Belpre Police Chief Ernie Clevenger said the city has an incident relating to that trestle about once a month.

Most of the time it is a truck or something where the driver realizes he doesn’t have the clearence to get under, Clevenger said. Many times the drivers have trouble finding a way to get out of the situation.

“It is not easy to extricate yourself from that situation,” he said. “About six or seven years ago we had a problem with a company that was transporting modular homes from Indiana or Illinois to West Virginia and they would come down Main Street and they would get caught there all the time. We started sending the company letters with maps explaining the situation and they finally began using a different route.”

Clevenger said at times they have to get creative to get a truck that is stuck out of the way.

“One time we took some of the air out of the tires to give them an extra fraction of an inch to get out and go,” he said.

While there are incidents of vehicles hitting the trestle from time to time, the trestle has not been a major problem for Belpre, Clevenger said.

According to allstays.com, the trestle has a clearance of 13 feet 10 inches but the sign posted at the underpass says the clearance is 13 feet 6 inches.

Clevenger said he is not sure whose responsibility it is to make sure the correct information is released regarding the clearance of underpasses.

“It may by the code enforcement officer or the safety-service director or it may ODOT,” he said. “At one time the clearance may have been 13 feet 10 inches, but paving over the years has reduced it.”

Not much can be done to increase the clearance under the trestle, other than lowering the roadway, Mayor Michael Lorentz said. Lorentz said two or three major incidents have occurred at the trestle since he took office.

“It’s very well marked. They just don’t pay attention to it,” Lorentz said.