An Arlington man died after a tractor-trailer slammed into a Central Texas overpass late Thursday morning, causing a beam to come crashing down onto vehicles and halting traffic on Interstate 35.
The truck hit a beam being used to build the Farm-to-Market Road 2484 bridge across I-35 in Salado, about 40 miles north of Austin. Debris then toppled onto the interstate and was struck by other vehicles, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Becky Ozuna said.
The beam fell onto a pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction, killing 32-year-old Clark Davis, of Arlington, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
DPS Trooper D.L. Wilson said three other people were taken to hospitals but were expected to survive.
The oversized 18-wheeler came to a stop under the overpass with its cab heavily damaged. Two other rigs and two pickup trucks also were involved in the wreck, said Lt. Donnie Adams with the Bell County sheriff's office.
Traffic was backed up for miles along the interstate, which is a primary north-south artery through Texas, while crews worked to clear the crash scene.
"That could have been me," said driver Daniel Vasquez, who frequently travels on I-35. "It’s scary."
Northbound and southbound traffic was detoured to Texas 195 and U.S. 190 through Killeen before the freeway opened at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
"We've got more vehicles than we've got space for," said Adams, noting that the area is undergoing heavy construction. He said the stretch of roadway is being expanded to three lanes in both directions and includes new overpasses, exits and other work, he said.
Corbin Casteel said he was traveling from Austin to Dallas for business when he came upon the accident. He said the truck appeared to have struck an overhead beam.
"It looked wedged underneath the bridge," he said.
Bridge Clearance Was Clearly Marked: TxDOT
The Texas Department of Transportation says vertical clearance of the FM 2484 bridge is 14 feet, 1/2 inch and that three signs are posted before the bridge.
TxDOT says the signs call for a vertical clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches and that the department informed the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles of the height so that trucks could get proper permits to either pass through the area or take alternate routes.
Investigators are trying to find out why the tractor-trailer did not make it under the clearance.
“[We are] trying to gather enough evidence to see what happened,” said DPS Senior Trooper Harpin Myers. “We're checking the driver himself. We are checking the vehicle and the road.”
I-35 is a major north-south interstate stretching from the Mexico border to Minnesota.
NBC 5's Amanda Guerra and Johnny Archer contributed to this report.