Oversized load damages pedestrian overpass in Aiea

Pedestrian overpass hit by truck, collapses onto freeway
Published: Oct. 16, 2012 at 4:59 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2012 at 1:36 PM HST
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Photo Courtesy: Kelsey Tsuhako
Photo Courtesy: Kelsey Tsuhako
Ben Leama
Ben Leama
Tita Pulu-Masaniai
Tita Pulu-Masaniai
Kate O'Malley
Kate O'Malley

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An oversized load slammed into an overpass shortly after noon on Tuesday, causing part of a concrete footbridge to collapse near Aiea Elementary School. Witnesses said a truck from Tibbitts Trucking was towing a flatbed trailer with a forklift on top when the equipment hit the walkway. The pedestrian overpass had a clearance of 15 feet, 6 inches.

"We all heard a big boom and then everyone was like, 'Oh my goodness, what happened?' They all stared out the window of our lunch room and they were all like, 'Oh my goodness, the bridge broke!'" said sixth-grader Ben Leama.

A five-ton concrete chunk came crashing down. The truck driver wasn't hurt, but now there is a huge 30-foot long gap in the overpass used by roughly 50 students daily.

"I think it's scary because this is main part we walk to get to school and get to home so I think it's really scary," said sixth-grader Tita Pulu-Masaniai.

If the bridge had collapsed 30 minutes later, it could have been crowded with students walking home from school. Classes ended early at 12:30 p.m. for parent-teachers conferences.

"All of us were like, 'What if we all were on there and fell?'" wondered sixth-grader Ella Tovi.

"I don't even want to speculate on that. That would just be too horrendous. It could have been horrible," said principal Kate O'Malley.

O'Malley said she was grateful that Gomes School Bus Service took home children who normally use the bridge. The service will continue temporarily even if the students don't have a bus pass.

"I'd like the parents to hear this that all of our children that normally walk to and from school will be allowed on the buses," O'Malley said.

While crews assessed the damage and cleared debris, traffic backed up due to lane closures. Police were forced to close Moanalua Road fronting Aiea Elementary while workers cleaned the area. The Aiea off-ramp reopened just before 4:30 in the afternoon.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the trucking company failed to obtain a permit. Tibbitts Trucking could have to pay for the cost of repairs.

"Anytime there is an oversized load, they need to file a permit which talks about what's on the load and where it's going because there's obviously height limits to all of our overpasses," explained DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter.

Hawaii News Now called Tibbitts Trucking. The man who answered said the business didn't obtain a permit because it didn't seem the cargo was overheight since the machinery measured under 12 feet. Before our reporter could ask any other questions, the man hung up.

There is no estimate on how long it will take to fix the walkway. UH football fans also park at the school and use the bridge to get to Aloha Stadium.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.