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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

Experts investigating covered-bridge collapse


MONTPELIER, Ohio - A partially built covered bridge that collapsed just before Christmas is being disassembled piece by piece at the site throughout next week.

A team of experts from a company in Illinois arrived Monday at the Williams County fairgrounds, where they re helping to oversee the dismantling of the $600,000 bridge, in hopes of determining a cause of its collapse.

“They re going to pretty much dismantle the entire thing,” Allen Dean, county fair board director, said yesterday. “As they tear it apart, they re drawing conclusions as to what happened.”

On Dec. 21, the middle portion of the wooden-truss bridge collapsed into the St. Joseph River. The bridge, a project of the fair board, was being built to connect a newly acquired piece of land north of the river to the original fairgrounds area on the south side.

Experts are surveying the debris in hopes of determining the cause of the collapse, and investigating the materials used to build it and employees with the general contractor, Mosser Construction, Inc., of Fremont.

Chuck Moyer, senior vice president of the construction company, said it s Mosser s intent to proceed with the project once a cause is determined. He said the matter remains under investigation.

Mr. Dean said he expected a cause to be released in the next several weeks.

Construction crews in the fall began laying concrete footers for the bridge. The trusses were put into place in early December, and the bridge was to be completed in mid-February.

The recent collapse delayed the project, but Mr. Dean said it will be open to pedestrians and traffic for the fair in September.

“We re patiently waiting to find out the cause and get it going again,” Mr. Dean said. “It will happen.”

Mr. Dean said he believes the covered bridge will be rebuilt in its original design, which includes a 120-foot span and 6-foot-wide sidewalks for pedestrians on either side.

He said the contractor s insurance, or the building supplier s insurance, will pay for the collapse.

The bridge is part of an overall $1.3 million revamp of the fairgrounds. Fair board members raised money for the bridge through donations from local groups and municipalities.

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