Police: Rigger issue might have caused crane to topple over

Police: Rigger issue might have caused crane to topple over
Why the crane collapsed is under investigation, but it toppled over from south to north, with the crane itself covering all three lanes of the bridge. (Photo source: WLOX)
Why the crane collapsed is under investigation, but it toppled over from south to north, with the crane itself covering all three lanes of the bridge. (Photo source: WLOX)
Police officers from several agencies worked to get traffic turned around using the I-10 median. (Photo source: Gulfport Police Dept.)
Police officers from several agencies worked to get traffic turned around using the I-10 median. (Photo source: Gulfport Police Dept.)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Traffic is again moving along I-10 westbound over the Biloxi River Bridge. That wasn't the case this morning after a crane toppled over.

It was 7:20 a.m. Rush hour traffic was building. It came to a screeching halt when a huge crane collapsed, blocking all westbound lanes. Traffic backed up for miles.

Incredibly, only one car struck the crane. The driver, Patty Warrick, was not injured, but was she shaken up.

"I slammed on the brakes and just slid right into the crane that had already fallen over and stopped," Warrick recalled.  "I wanted to get through it, but I didn't know what I was going to do. I just said, 'Lord, it's in your hands.'"

The steering wheel was in Melissa Boedecker's hands as she was at the front of the pack when the crane fell.

"When I realized it was moving and I realized then that I was terrified that it was going to catch fire, so I backed up. One guy said, 'Don't get out of your car. Move, move,' so I backed up to get out of the way. I was just thankful that no one else was hurt," Boedecker explained.

For Jerry Stussman, who is returning to California, this was not the tourist attraction he was expecting.

"Clearly something wasn't right. I'm being facetious, but something was wrong, so we shut the van down and been here for a while," Stussman said.

Despite the colossal traffic jam on I-10 and despite the inconvenience for everyone traveling westbound, this incident could have been a lot worse, according to Sgt. Josh Bromen with the Gulfport Police Department.

"We talk about one factor that may have changed, fog, adverse weather, rain, sleet, or snow. Any of those conditions, or even if there had been more traffic, we could have had a really bad accident. We got lucky all things considered," Bromen said.

That's something everyone on the bridge agreed on.

It took almost five hours to clear the crane from the interstate and get traffic flowing again. Gulfport police said the crane toppled over because its riggers were not out far enough for proper stabilization.

The crane has been on the bridge for about two weeks for maintenance work on the structure, including sandblasting.

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved.