Woman survives after massive beam crushes car on Portland bridge

Woman survives after massive beam crushes car on Portland bridge

PORTLAND, Ore. – A semi-truck carrying a 170,000 pound beam used in bridge construction overturned on the Marquam Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, crushing a car driving next to it.

A worker who steered the rear wheels of the truck jumped out of his cab and pulled 23-year-old Dana Buice from the crushed car, which had caught fire.

"I get out of the machine. I run up and I look over the beam. There's a young woman in there, she's screaming," said Mark Cole. "She's kind of pinned underneath the steering wheel and just underneath the car."

Cole managed to get her out and said Buice only suffered a cut on her hand.

He said if the beam had been inches closer she would have been seriously injured or killed.

Buice is originally from Georgia but now lives in Portland. On her Facebook page she posted KATU.com’s story with an important message: "I'm alive."

Friends at her apartment late Tuesday night told KATU that Buice was resting and wasn't up for talking about the accident.

Crews reopened the bridge just after 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. They worked all night to clear the beam from the freeway. They cut it into four 40,000 pound pieces in preparation to haul them off the bridge. Engineers inspected the bridge to make sure it wasn't damaged and is safe.

When the accident happened, a witness across the Willamette River told KATU she heard an explosion.

The truck was driving northbound on I-5 over the bridge when the beam somehow rolled over. Cole described it as a freak accident, although police have not yet released any official cause.

Cole said he saw the beam tilting as the truck drove slowly across the bridge. He tried to radio the driver in the front but said everything happened too fast for anyone to stop it.

The 170-foot-long girder was being transported for a contractor working on the Portland-Milwaukie light rail project, according to TriMet.

A TriMet spokeswoman said six girders were set to be delivered Tuesday and six more Wednesday. The one that tipped over was the fifth of the day. The route had been approved by transportation officials.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials closed the northbound lanes as firefighters worked to put out the fire. Then they kept the lanes closed all night as clean-up crews worked to clean up the mess.

An ODOT spokesman said that under normal circumstances, the process to right and clear a truck can take several hours. Clearly this case is extraordinary given the scale of the cleanup.

Typically, crews first evaluate the situation and consider any fuel spills or other hazardous materials.

They must then bring in a tow truck or crane big enough to handle the job. Once the truck is removed, road crews will make any necessary repairs and clean up debris.

In a typical roll-over truck crash, the road can be closed anywhere between three and 12 hours, according to ODOT.