Charges unlikely for driver who hit Duck Bridge

Bill Kirk photoA bridge inspector with MassDOT inspects one of the Duck Bridge trusses that was hit by an oversized truck Monday.

LAWRENCE — No charges are likely to be filed against the driver of a truck hauling an excavator that struck the overhead beams of the Duck Bridge, causing up to $500,000 in damage and shutting the structure that spans the Merrimack River for at least three days.

On Monday at 12:36 p.m., according to police surveillance cameras, a truck owned by P. Gioioso & Sons was seen crossing the bridge, stopping frequently as the boom of the excavator came into contact with the overhead beams.

The driver stopped several times as he struck the steel trusses, even getting out to try to figure out what he had hit, said Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque, who has reviewed the security camera footage taken from both ends of the bridge.

But the driver continued on, Vasque said, unaware that he had broken off several of the overhead trusses and dented several others.

"He heard something, got out, but didn't see anything," Vasque said. "He told us he wasn't sure if anything was done."

He said there was "no intent" to damage the structure on the part of the driver, which is why there will likely be no charges. The driver's name is not being released as the investigation is still ongoing.

The company is cooperating fully with the investigation and neither the driver nor the company have outstanding safety violations or traffic issues.

On Tuesday, someone driving over the bridge called MassDOT and said that several beams were dangling from the top of the bridge.

The state agency, working alongside the Lawrence Department of Public Works, the Traffic Division and the city police department, shut down both ends of the bridge, detouring traffic to either the Central Bridge or the Interstate 495 bridge.

The pedestrian walkways on both sides of the bridge are still open.

An investigation found that in all, seven trusses were damaged by the collisions.

Mayor Daniel Rivera issued a statement Wednesday saying that the collisions caused an estimated $100,000 to $500,000 in damage, which will be paid for by the contractor's insurance company.

"We fully expect that P. Gioioso & Sons, through their bond and/or insurance, will pay for all repairs," the mayor said in Wednesday's statement.

MassDOT has assigned the repairs of the bridge to their contractor, SPS New England, Inc., out of Salisbury. SPS is currently working with MassDOT on identifying and ordering necessary parts to repair bridge damage and are placing expedited orders on those parts.

Once the parts arrive, the contractor will be working around the clock to repair the bridge. At this time, the bridge remains closed and is expected to be closed for the next 48 to 72 hours.

P. Gioioso & Sons is performing excavations and replacing sewer mains across the city and is working as a subcontractor for Insituform, the general contractor repairing and lining the sewer mains. 

Representatives from P. Gioioso & Sons did not return a call seeking comment about the incident. 

Patrick Marvin, a spokesman for MassDOT, said it's not clear exactly when the bridge will reopen.

"There is no definite timeline yet," he said. "We always prioritize safety."