Semi overturns, crushes car

Trailer load shifts weight while crossing bridge

A semi trailer that overturned on top of a car on the Robert N. Stewart Bridge didn’t cause any serious injuries, but created traffic headaches for motorists heading into Columbus.

Firefighters and police at the scene said Monday that they couldn’t remember ever before working an accident in which a semi overturned on the bridge, let alone crushing another vehicle.

The bridge was closed for about 40 minutes after the 10:50 a.m. Monday accident with the far left lane reopening at about 11:30 a.m.

The driver of the semi, Lekedrick Hughes, 25, Indianapolis, was working with Columbus police, firefighters and wrecker crews after the accident to determine how best to unload nearly 4,200 pounds of scrap metal out of the trailer before uprighting the semi and removing the wreckage from the bridge.

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The trailer overturned on top of the driver’s side of a white Pontiac Grand Am driven by Connie Phillips, 63, of County Road 400W in Bartholomew County, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

When firefighters arrived, Phillips already had been helped from the car by other first responders and taken to Columbus Regional Hospital, police said. She was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital on Monday, hospital officials said.

Hughes and his pit bull Toof, who was also in the truck cab, were not injured in the accident, although the dog was taken by Columbus Animal Control to the shelter to be kept warm. Temperatures were in the mid-40s as police, firefighters and wrecker crews worked at the scene.

“It definitely could have been a lot worse,” Harris said.

How it transpired

Hughes said he had been driving east past the light at State Road 11, heading toward the bridge at about 45 mph in the far left of four lanes of traffic there. One of the lanes over the bridge diverts off to the left onto Brown Street, and another off to the right toward Columbus City Hall.

As Hughes proceeded east from the light at about 45 mph around the turn onto the bridge, he said he felt the metal weight in the trailer shift.

As he braked, the cab and trailer skidded several hundred feet down the bridge at an angle into the right lanes, with the trailer toppling over on the Grand Am, which was in the far right lane.

Hughes said he didn’t see any cars as the vehicle skidded down the entryway into the bridge and did not know the trailer had overturned on Phillips’ car.

“I couldn’t see her,” Hughes said.

The 53-foot trailer landed at an angle on top of the driver’s side of the car with the back of the trailer wedged against the right hand side of the bridge.

Wrecker crews used a winch to pull the trailer away from the bridge side so the back of the truck could be opened and the metal contents could be removed.

The load was so heavy the wrecker began to tip while attempting to scoot the back of the trailer away from the side of the bridge, and the wrecker had to be stabilized before it could be moved over on the roadway.

By 2:30 p.m., crews had the semi upright and were preparing it for removal, after an Indiana State Police inspection, along with the car.

Firefighters placed a peat moss product over the bridge to absorb radiator and washer fluid from the semi and the car that spilled on the bridge, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

After the crash, wrecker crews drained the semi’s fuel tank before lifting the trailer off its side. No fuel spills were reported from the crash, Wilson said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.