It was a “GPS screw-up” that led to the driver of a tractor trailer failing to make clearance and crashing into the top of the Mt. Orne Covered Bridge on Wednesday morning, said Lancaster Town Manager Ed Samson.
On Friday, the town was still assessing the damage to the bridge that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It basically amounts to cosmetic damage, but what limited damage there is will be an expensive repair,” Samson said Friday morning.
As yet, no cost estimate for the damage is available.
The 266-foot-long Howe truss bridge, that was built in 1911, spans the Connecticut River along Route 135 between Lancaster and Lunenburg and is maintained by the towns.
After the collision, the bridge was closed before being reopened late Wednesday, said Samson.
“Some loose timbers were removed that do not compromise its integrity,” he said. “It’s safe for vehicle passage.
No injuries and no structural damage to the bridge were reported.
“The [New Hampshire Department of Transportation] bridge crew did come up to make sure it was structurally safe, and that’s why it was reopened,” said Lancaster Police Chief Timothy Charbonneau.
The maximum bridge vertical height is posted at 12 feet, 9 inches, but there is another low-hanging, drop-down safety bar that states in read lettering “11 feet, six inches,” said Charbonneau.
But the driver tried to pass through with 13-foot-high trailer, said Samson.
The driver had spent the night in Berlin and programmed his route through GPS, said Samson.
“It was another GPS screw-up again,” he said.
Charbonneau identified the driver as Emilio Leal, 51, of Palm Springs, Fla., who works for a company named Pro Intermodal, of Doral, Fla.
Leal had been traveling from the Lancaster side to the Vermont side of Lunenburg and made it through the warning barrier and onto the bridge for about 20 feet. After the hit, he backed out the the bridge beams that were struck crashed down on the cab.
Although his destination was Lancaster’s Main Street location of Trividia Manufacturing, he was on Route 135.
“This is an example of why people should not rely solely on a GPS unit,” said Charbonneau.
N.H. State Police Troop G, the state’s truck unit enforcement agency, will be charging Leal with several violations, said Charbonneau.
They are possibly to include driving a truck with a trailer too long for the road and not adhering to bridge height limits.
According to a state history of the bridge, it was rehabilitated in 1983.
The first bridge built on the site was in the 1860s or 1870s to connect the two towns.