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After the Storm: Body of I-10 Truck Driver Found

8:38 PM, Sep 17, 2004   |    comments
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PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- Divers Friday found a body in the cab of a semitrailer truck left wrecked on an Interstate 10 bridge broken apart by Hurricane Ivan as it tore through Florida's Panhandle. The Florida Highway Patrol said that although the ripped trailer remained on the bridge, the cab was submerged in Escambia Bay. Investigators were trying to confirm the identity of the body, said FHP Maj. Ernest Duarte. "We have recovered the only person in the vehicle," Duarte told The Associated Press. It wasn't known if the truck carried more than its driver when the bridge's roadbed collapsed ahead of it as a powerful storm tide surged up the bay, closing the Panhandle's major east-west highway. The cab fell into the shallow bay, leaving the trailer, its front portion apparently torn off by Ivan's winds, perched precariously on the bridge, a scene captured in photos that serve as a representation of Ivan's force. It wasn't known exactly when the bridge at Pensacola collapsed and the truck wrecked. Ivan's fiercest sustained winds of 135 mph hit the area at about 3 a.m. EDT. Department of Transportation traffic counters show only three vehicles westbound on I-10 east of the bridge in the hour leading up to the strongest impact. Santa Rosa County officials said Friday that search and rescue divers were trying to find out if anyone else may have gone into the bay when the bridge partially collapsed, said county emergency management spokesman Don Chinery. Meanwhile, state transportation officials said they received bids to repair the westbound span, using parts from the eastbound lanes. The bridge closing diverted local traffic to U.S. 90, which was backed for more than 10 miles heading into Pensacola. Commercial traffic -- the heavy trucks that haul items across the nation's interstate system -- was being diverted off I-10 along a 180-mile stretch because of the bridge closing and other damage by Ivan. The eastbound detour off I-10 was in Marianna north to U.S. 231 to Montgomery, Ala., then Interstate 65 to Mobile, Ala., the patrol said. Westbound traffic was being detoured in Mobile to Montgomery, then Marianna. The detour for commercial traffic amounts to about 130 miles. Kane said the detour was significant but necessary, and it could change soon. "Yes, it is a long detour right now, but we're working around the clock to get them closer to I-10," Kane said. The I-10 bridge repair work involves removing pieces from the eastbound span and placing them into the missing sections of the westbound span. The westbound span would become one lane in each direction for heavily traveled interstate. The 30-day contract calls for a $250,000 daily incentive for quick work, state Department of Transportation spokesman Dick Kane said. "Obviously, time is money," Kane said. "The quicker they can get this bridge up and running, the quicker we can accommodate commerce flowing east and west."

Associated Press

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