THE Bruce Highway north of Gympie has been reopened after a multiple vehicle crash involving a massive 71-tonne concrete bridge span on a wide load jinker, two semi-trailers, a pilot vehicle and a utility.
Amazingly no-one was killed in the pre-dawn smash which occurred about 5.15am, although the northbound utility driver was taken to hospital after colliding head-on with one of the semi-trailers at the Spring Valley bridge, just south of the Kilkivan turn-off at Bells Bridge.
It is understood a second person was also taken to hospital, but neither suffered life threatening injuries.
It is believed the concrete girder was on its way to be used as a bridge span over the Isis River.
A 200-tonne crane is enroute from Childers to shift the girder, which was left with its prime mover blocking the northbound lane. The rear of the girder had been dragged along the highway and left blocking the southbound lane.
The wide-load jinker carrying the rear of the girder was ripped out from under it by the force of impact with a southbound semi-trailer carrying a load of aluminium ingots.
Queensland Fire and Rescue workers had to eliminate the fire danger from a substantial spill of diesel fuel.
A pilot driver who was travelling behind the girder and its wide-load said the northbound bridge span and its prime mover and jinker were was just passing a southbound semi-trailer which had pulled over to allow it to pass, when a second southbound semi, apparently unable to stop, attempted to pass the stopped vehicle while the girder was still being towed past it.
While avoiding impact with the parked semi, the second southbound semi smashed into the heavy steel jinker and the rear of the girder. It then apparently rebounded and clipped the rear of the following pilot vehicle.
Fortunately much slowed by the twin impacts, the semi then collided head-on with a utility travelling behind the pilot vehicle.
The force of impact with the jinker shredded the semi-trailer’s fuel tanks and wrecked the jinker, tearing out two sets of its wheels and axles and bending heavy steel structural members beyond recognition.
One axle with four wheels was jammed under a damaged guard rail on the bridge.
Another wrecked axle was jammed under the rear of the jinker.
Wreckage covered a 200m stretch of the highway and traffic was banked up for about 1km in both directions.
“I just saw the headlights coming at me and I thought ‘it’sall over for me,” the pilot driver, who was uninjured, said at the scene.
A 200-tonne crane was being sought from Childers to reload the bridge span while emergency crews and tow truck operators pondered how to get the massively heavy girder off the highway in the meantime.
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