- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. (AP) Rescuers hoisted two vehicles with four bodies inside from the murky Arkansas River yesterday, bringing the death toll from the collapse of an interstate bridge to 13.
Lightning, rain and rising waters hampered the rescuers, who picked their way through the muddy water searching for an unknown number of people still missing after an out-of-control barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge and knocked out a 500-foot section of highway.
The bodies of seven women and six men had been recovered from the waters below the bridge by late Monday, Lt. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said. With the help of sonar, a crane had hoisted 10 vehicles from the pile of mangled concrete and twisted steel.
A champion horse trainer and a police detective were among those believed to have died, family members said.
About 10 families of people trapped in cars at the bottom of the river waited at the Webbers Falls City Hall for news. About a dozen vehicles plummeted into the water Sunday morning after the barge hit.
Earlier yesterday, an investigator said towboat crew members' accounts of the moments before a barge rammed a highway bridge supported the contention that the boat's pilot blacked out.
George Black of the National Transportation Safety Board said a crewman who visited with captain Joe Dedmon five to 10 minutes before Sunday's accident said everything seemed normal.
The other crew members, who were not with Mr. Dedmon at the time of the crash, said they heard no alarm or change in the sound of the engine that would indicate he was trying to avoid impact, Mr. Black said.
Mr. Dedmon, who tested negative for drugs and alcohol use, was to be interviewed by NTSB investigators late yesterday. A spokesman for towboat owner Magnolia Marine Transport Co. had said Mr. Dedmon blacked out.
A 500-foot section of the Interstate 40 bridge collapsed on Sunday morning after the barge hit, causing about a dozen vehicles to plummet into the water.
Dental records helped identify one of the victims as Andrew Clements, 35, an Army soldier. He was traveling from California to Virginia, officials said. Other names were not released by authorities in Webbers Falls, but the police department in Norman said it had been notified that the dead included one of its detectives, Wayne Martin, and his wife, Susan.
In Texas, friends and family confirmed that award-winning horse trainer Gail Shanahan, 49, and another trainer, Maggie Green, were also among the dead. They were driving back to Texas after a competition in Fort Smith, Ark., pulling a trailer carrying four horses. Authorities had said that three dead horses were pulled from the river.
A veteran towboat captain said he was astonished the bridge could not withstand a blow from a 490-foot barge moving upstream at only 5 mph.
"An empty barge made of half-inch steel shouldn't do that kind of damage," said David Greer of Baton Rouge, La.


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