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Log truck topples on Fall City's Highway 202 bridge

Mike Bartholomew of North Bend picks up logs blocking the center turn lane of the Hwy 202 bridge in Fall City Tuesday morning. The log truck tipped over because a U-bolt in the suspension broke as the southbound truck was turning west onto the roundabout. No one was injured.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Mike Bartholomew of North Bend picks up logs blocking the center turn lane of the Hwy 202 bridge in Fall City Tuesday morning. The log truck tipped over because a U-bolt in the suspension broke as the southbound truck was turning west onto the roundabout. No one was injured.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

A fully-loaded log truck tipped over onto the Highway 202 bridge in Fall City just before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, blocking traffic and closing the bridge for about two hours.

No one was injured in the accident, which left the truck on its driver's side, with 86,000 pounds of cedar logs blocking the turn lane to the Highway 203 roundabout. Driver Cleo Shanks had to climb out the passenger side of the cab after the truck went down, but said he was fine.

The accident was caused by a broken U-bolt in the suspension, according to Shanks as well as the Highway Patrol officers who responded.

"Once that weight shifts, there's no way to stop it," said Trooper Muren, who took on the role of lead investigator. All of the Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation officials on the scene agreed it could have been a much worse accident.

Shanks was hauling the logs from Sedro-Woolley to Morton for Leonard Hornbeck Trucking, and "I was going slow because I had all day to get there," he said. He felt the bolt snap when he was turning westbound onto the bridge, "and then I started grabbing everything I could!"

He has been driving trucks off and on for about 25 years, and has never been involved in an accident like this, he said.

George, a Fall City resident since 1962, had never seen an accident like this, either.

"Not in Fall City," he said. "You know, (the driver's) going to have a heck of a ticket. I feel sorry for him."

Shanks did get a ticket and a fine, $175 for speeding. He took the news pragmatically, but several locals who came out to watch the clean-up were outraged on his behalf.

"He's too much of an old-timer to be speeding," said one man, also a heavy-hauler. He pointed out the broken U-bolt on the truck, still on its side. "When something critical breaks like that, there's nothing you can do."

A Fall City resident known as Augie was the first to talk with Shanks after he climbed out. He agreed, saying "when it's real cold like this, it really stresses the metal."

Clean-up for the accident took only about two hours. Mike Bartholomew and Sons Trucking in North Bend brought in a self-loader to pick up the logs and stack them onto two separate truck—"a self-loader won't hold what a conventional truck would," explained Augie. A tow truck pulled the tractor of Shanks' truck upright and towed it away. The trailer went in a second trip. Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol personnel helped sweep the debris off the roadway and put absorbent material on the oil that spilled from the truck.

Luckily, the oil didn't stream toward the river, and it wasn't a large spill.

"This is so little, it's nothing," said a DOT worker.

Shanks added "All of the fuel stayed in the tank!"

He also helped pick up various cables and chains, chatted with various bystanders and joked about the events of the morning. He knew he'd have to take a "pee test" to determine if there were drugs in his system, and as for getting home, "I'm going to ride home with the boss, so he can chew me out."

The bridge on Hwy 203 was re-opened at noon Tuesday, but a DOT bridge inspection team was dispatched later in the day to ensure there was no damage to the bridge from the impact.

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