Bridge’s Primary Structure is in Good Shape

By Max Resnik

September 27, 2012 Updated Nov 1, 2013 at 4:31 AM EDT

SPENCERVILLE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – An engineering firm out of Indianapolis spent Thursday afternoon examining the damage to the Spencerville Covered Bridge caused by a semi-truck driver who thought he could make it through unscathed.

The driver, Gerard Hudson, 46, of Waukegan, Illinois, is charged with criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license. He is currently being held in the DeKalb County Jail.

USI, a group of engineers in Spencerville Thursday, examined the bridge’s primary and secondary structures to get a feel for the extent of the damage. The primary structure, responsible for supporting the bridge and its weight, is sound, according to Bonnie Money, a professional engineer with USI.

She says the secondary structure, much of which comprised the roof of the covered bridge, was destroyed. Those are pieces like iron rods, casting and braces. Money says those will need to be replaced if the bridge is to be used in the future.

Preliminary estimates on the extent of the damage exceeded $100,000, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the sheriff’s department, Hudson’s trailer was empty during the time of the accident. They say Hudson was on his way to pick up a load at Nucor in St. Joe, Indiana. According to the news release, Hudson said his GPS took him on a route that included the Spencerville Covered Bridge, a historical landmark erected in 1873 with a clearance of 12 feeet 6 inches. Nearly 100 yards south of the landmark is an uncovered bridge intended for semi-trucks like Hudson’s.

Hudson is an employee of JF Freight. Indiana’s NewsCenter placed a call to JF Freight regarding the accident and inquired as to why Hudson would be driving under a suspended license. That call was not returned.

One man standing at the bridge Thursday watching engineers study the structure was 76-year-old Ted Hollabaugh. Hollabaugh has lived his entire life in Spencerville. He says his great-grandfather moved to Spencerville in the mid-to-late 19th century and witnessed the building of the Spencerville Covered Bridge.

"He was here when the bridge was built and then my granddad, my dad and me, then my kids and my grandkids have all come through this bridge, come down here and, you know, it means quite a lot to us people here," he says.

Hollabaugh remembers biking over the bridge. His grandson, who joined him Thursday to see the damage, echoed the same. Hollabaugh says that while the bridge will likely be saved, he does find its near destruction tragic.

“I was stunned, and I didn't know what to think. You know, it was, it was tragic. And it don't seem quite as bad now. I think they're going to be able to repair it.”

The Spencerville Covered Bridge is a National Historical Landmark. It is the only covered bridge in DeKalb County.

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