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Truck driver won't face charges for damaging I-75 overpass

RIDGE MANOR — On an average day, more than 60,000 motorists pass through and around the intersection of Interstate 75 and State Road 50 in eastern Hernando County.

William Lindsay's attempted trip under the overpass on Tuesday afternoon was anything but normal as he ripped a gaping hole into two concrete beams holding up the highway and traffic backed up for miles.

A day later, investigators were still unclear as to what caused the empty trailer bed of Lindsay's 1991 Mack truck to suddenly rise as he passed under the bridge about 1:30 p.m. The metal bed of the eastbound truck hit the first and second outside concrete beams that support the I-75 overpass.

Unable to pin down a cause for the crash and satisfied that nothing illegal occurred, the Florida Highway Patrol said Wednesday that neither Lindsay nor his employer, W. Clyde Daniel Construction, will be charged in the incident.

The FHP is "not able to prove that the operator/driver acted improperly," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, a spokesman with the agency. "Charges have to be made that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt — even traffic charges."

Gaskins said the agency has nearly wrapped up its investigation of the crash. FHP was only awaiting a report from the state Motor Carrier Compliance Office on the truck's most recent inspection.

The investigation is "complete pending MCCO's report to let me know if they have any charges which right now I doubt," Gaskins said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

The FHP also determined that Lindsay, 56, of Brooksville, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs Tuesday afternoon. No one was injured in the accident.

Lindsay could not be reached for comment and Ann Daniel, a co-owner of W. Clyde Daniel Construction, said she had nothing to say about the case when reached at her office Wednesday afternoon.

However, other people familiar with the operation of rock-hauling trucks seemed puzzled at how such a bizarre occurrence — the bed lifting on its own — could occur.

Dana Vansciver, a service advisor at Fleet Tech Truck Parts and Service in Hudson, said it would be nearly impossible to come up with an exact cause.

"It could be millions of things," said Vansciver. "It really could be anything. You never know."

Vansciver said most truck beds are controlled by an air-operated pump near the transmission. The valve that controls the pump is usually within reach of the driver and has a lock switch that should prevent the sort of mishaps that happened Tuesday.

Only a half-mile away from the overpass in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, longtime driver Richard Knighton said Wednesday nearly 50 years sitting behind the wheel of rigs has taught him almost anything can happen on the open highway.

"I've been driving all my life," Knighton said. "Let me tell you: Anything is possible."

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Transportation was working quickly Wednesday to repair the damage and ease the burden on motorists. The FHP said more than 41,000 drivers use I-75 at that site each day, while another 19,900 travel along SR 50.

By Wednesday afternoon, traffic was flowing with little interruption in all directions at the accident scene. All lanes of SR 50 had been opened by noon, and one of the two southbound lanes on I-75 was closed.

FDOT plans to replace the damaged concrete beams and bridge deck of the overpass bytoday. Motorists headed east on SR 50 should expect to be periodically diverted to a westbound lane under the overpass while repairs are being completed on the overpass.

Also, FDOT said by the end of the week it will create a second lane on southbound I-75 and erect a temporary barrier wall during repairs.

FDOT spokeswoman Kristen Carson said it should take about three weeks for all repairs at the intersection to be completed.

"Our contractor is working as quickly as possible, trying to restore the lanes on the interstate and SR 50 during the very busy holiday traffic time," Carson said in an e-mail directed at motorists. "Thank you for your patience."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Truck driver won't face charges for damaging I-75 overpass 12/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:45pm]
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