Two men helping build roads in Clinton were killed Monday afternoon when a truck lost its load and logs crashed onto a bridge under construction. At least 19 others, including the driver of the truck, were injured.
The deceased were identified in a report from the Arkansas State Police as Robert Keith Moore, 51, of Chester, and Ricardo Trochez, 40, of Atkins.
The report said the 1999 Peterbilt log truck was traveling south on Highway 65 when driver Jerry Lyn Hickman, 39, of Bee Branch, had a tire blow out on his trailer as it neared Highway 16 East where a new Archey Fork bridge is under construction.
As a result of the blowout, the load of logs shifted and the trailer overturned, spilling logs onto the bridge and roadway, the report said.
Logs struck four vehicles, including the truck carrying them, and many of the Mobley Construction crew. As many as 30 workers were on the bridge at the time of the accident.
When the logs came crashing across the bridge, the workers had no place to go, Sheriff Scott Bradley said. "They were like sitting ducks," he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Some of the workers were trapped underneath the logs and were "laying all over the bridge" Bradley said.
The scene, according to one witness, was "gruesome."
Moore was pronounced dead at the scene by Van Buren County Coroner Joe Tsosie, and Trochez was pronounced dead at Ozark Health Medical Center.
The injured were transported by ambulances from the county and surrounding counties and by helicopter to Ozark Health in Clinton, Baptist and St. Vincent hospitals and UAMS in Little Rock. Many of the injuries have been described as serious.
Traffic heading north backed up for miles as police closed Highway 65 to clear the scene. The accident occurred about 3:15 p.m. and traffic began moving again around 5 p.m.
State Police, the sheriff’s office and Clinton Police are investigating the accident. No citations have been issued.
Work to widen the Archey Fork bridge began in December and was expected to be completed in the spring of 2015.
The intersection at Highways 65 and 16 has long been a traffic problem and the site of many wrecks as trucks sometimes lose their brakes as they come down the steep hill. A traffic light installed in the past couple of years has somewhat eased the problem.