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Date of Issue: July 02, 2010

Crash closes Cortez Bridge

The cab of this tractor-trailer dangles over the guardrail of the Cortez Bridge after the tractor-trailer and a Volkswagen apparently side-swiped each other while crossing the narrow bridge. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

A two-vehicle accident on the Cortez Bridge around 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 29, closed the bridge to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic for several hours, and put the cab of a tractor-trailer over the guard rail and dangerously close to falling into the water.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said he had few details of the cause of the accident, but there were no serious injuries.

An 18-wheel tractor-trailer belonging to Cal-Maine Foods Inc. of Tampa and a late-model Volkswagen apparently side-swiped each other on the west side of the bridge just past the draw, he said. The accident forced the driver of the tractor-trailer to swerve into the oncoming lane, across the curb and through the guard rail.

The cab of the tractor-trailer did not detach or fall into the water, Speciale said, and the driver was able to exit safely.

Neither driver was able to recall the details of how the accident happened, he said.

“The guy driving the semi just said that he suddenly saw himself heading into the guard rail,” the chief said.

“The driver of the car said he didn’t remember what happened,” Speciale said, but added that it appeared one vehicle strayed across the yellow line and struck the front fender of the other vehicle.

Airbags in the Volkswagen deployed, but the driver was not seriously injured. He was treated by EMS at the scene and released, Speciale said.

Florida Highway Patrol officers were on the scene and a report will be available as soon as possible, an FHP officer said.

Speciale said the bridge would remain closed until engineers from the Florida Department of Transportation certified that the bridge was stable and safe to reopen for motorists.

The bridge reopened to vehicular traffic around 2:30 p.m., an FHP spoksperson said.

Two tow trucks were called to the bridge to assist recovery of the tractor-trailer and the cab. One truck jacked up the cab of the semi-trailer to get it back onto the roadway, while the other towed the disabled cab and trailer to a repair facility.

Holmes Beach Police Department officers and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies assisted in detouring approaching traffic in both directions to alternate routes.