By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Blaine County Attorney's Office has filed charges against a truck driver it says is responsible for the collapse of a bridge on U.S. Highway 2. They were filed almost a year to the day after the crash.
The accident forced the state to close a section of northern Montana's major roadway for three weeks and detour traffic onto gravel roads. The bridge was replaced at a total cost of $3.17 million, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.
Nine misdemeanor offenses were filed Wednesday against Havre resident Dave Williams, 60. A bulldozer Williams was hauling struck the bridge between Havre and Chinook at 6:44 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2003, the Montana Highway Patrol reported.
The charges, filed in Blaine County Justice Court, include hauling a wide load without the proper permit, driving without insurance, and negligent endangerment. The charges carry a maximum combined fine of $3,230.
Williams declined to comment today. Blaine County Attorney Yvonne Laird could not be reached for comment.
An investigation by the Montana Highway Patrol determined that after the bulldozer clipped a bridge pylon, it careened into an oncoming, westbound grain truck. A "ripper" unit mounted on the back of the dozer tore into the rear portion of an empty grain trailer and destroyed a second, smaller "pup" trailer, the Highway Patrol said in November. Then the dozer blade severed a support beam on the southwest corner of the bridge, causing the bridge to collapse, according to the patrol.
Neither Williams nor the other driver - Michael Shroyer, 47, of Billings - were injured.
The bridge was replaced three weeks after the accident with a temporary bridge, at a cost of $176,000. Before the temporary bridge was in place, motorists along Highway 2 were forced to follow a 5-mile diversion along gravel roads.
The cost of the temporary bridge was originally paid by the state, but will be refunded by federal emergency relief dollars, MDT operations engineer Ed Toavs said today.
Two construction crews working in 10-hour shifts for Tamietti Construction of Great Falls finished the project 19 days early.
The new permanent bridge was finished this summer. The pylons of the original bridge still have to be removed, Toavs said.
So far, $3 million has been spent on the new permanent bridge, and 87 percent of that will be refunded through the federal relief program, Toavs said.
Williams faces the following misdemeanors: negligent endangerment, operating a motor vehicle without liability insurance, careless driving, failing to give an approaching vehicle half of roadway, operating a vehicle with a width in excess of 102 inches without a special permit, operating a vehicle in excess of the legal gross weight without an overweight permit, failure to possess sufficient gross vehicle weight fees for vehicle, failure to display flashing amber light, and failure to carry or possess trailer registration.