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Date of Issue: July 07, 2010

Crash sends big rig to brink of bridge

The cab of this tractor-trailer dangles over the guardrail of the Cortez Bridge after the tractor-trailer hit a Volkswagen sedan and crossed the narrow bridge about 11:15 a.m. June 29. Bradenton Beach police and units from the West Manatee Fire Rescue were on the scene as the cab was pulled back onto the roadway. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

A two-vehicle accident on the Cortez Bridge at 11:15 a.m. June 29, closed the bridge to all traffic for several hours, and put the cab of a tractor-trailer over the guardrail and dangerously close to falling into the water.

The Florida Highway Patrol report of the incident said that a Cal-Maine Foods Inc. tractor-trailer driven by George Gonzalez, 32, of Brandon, was traveling west about 11:15 a.m. when the trailer crossed the yellow dividing line a few yards past the draw.

The tractor-trailer struck the front fender of an eastbound 2005 Volkswagen driven by Jonathan Quick, 43, of Bradenton Beach. The trailer then continued in the eastbound lane for a few yards until striking the south concrete curb of the bridge, then the guardrail. The cab of the trailer hung over the bridge railing, but did not disconnect from the trailer, the FHP reported.

No injuries were reported, and Gonzalez was able to exit the cab of the trailer safely. The FHP issued Gonzalez a citation for failure to drive in a single lane.

Tow trucks were called to the bridge to assist recovery of the tractor-trailer along with West Manatee Fire Rescue vehicles and personnel and several ambulances.

Law enforcement officials from Bradenton Beach were concerned because the fuel tank of the trailer was resting on the guardrail and appeared to be the only support for the cab. In addition to the FHP, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies assisted with the crash investigation.

One tow 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.

The bridge reopened to vehicular traffic around 2 p.m., after Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County engineers inspected the damaged curb and railing and declared the bridge safe for vehicular traffic.

Holmes Beach Police Department officers and MCSO deputies assisted in detouring approaching traffic in both directions to alternate routes.