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Woman drives 30-ton tractor trailer across bridge with a 6-ton limit. Guess what happens?

(Orange County Indiana Law Enforcement photo)

There’s a big national shortage of long-haul truck drivers, but you could wonder if the issue that caused an Indiana bridge collapse might have started years ago when, perhaps, driver Mary Lambright was absent for grade school when kids learn that 2,000 pounds equals one ton.

On Christmas Day, Lambright, 23, was driving a Volvo truck pulling a 53-foot trailer filled with 43,000 pounds of bottled water through Paoli, Ind., according to police. She had been licensed to drive the big rig since May, and told police she still wasn’t too confident backing the thing up.

Her plan was to pull it into a Walmart parking lot, but when she got on Main Street, she missed the turn and continued west. She made several attempts to turn around on South Oak Street, but the problem she had with backing up caused nothing but frustration.

Then she figured she could pull the rig into the big parking lot on South Gospel Street and swing it around without backing up. That would have worked well, but when she got there the lot was packed with heavy equipment.

That put her on course for the single-lane iron bridge. Lambright lives in nearby Fredericksburg, Ind., and told police she’d driven over the bridge plenty of times in her own car. She was familiar with the signs that said trucks were prohibited and that there was a six-ton weight limit.

But faced with the prospect of another futile attempt at backing up, she decided the prudent choice was to cross the bridge. Her first inkling this wouldn’t work came when the top of the trailer caved in the top of the steel bridge, and a split second later the bridge collapsed under the weight.

Lambright and her 17-year-old cousin, who was also in the truck, were unharmed. Lambright faces three citations for the mishap.

Police told her that the combined weight of the tractor and loaded trailer was close to 30 tons. The police report says, “When asked by Paoli Police why she continued through the bridge knowing the weight limit was only 6 tons she admitted to not knowing how many pounds that was.”

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