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Two telescopic lift trucks tipped forward and their booms fell into the river Monday off Cass Street Bridge’s west side.

TRAVERSE CITY — A cheer broke out from the small crowd on Union Street Dam when the wheels of a SkyTrak telescopic lift truck settled on the South Cass Street Bridge in Traverse City.

The piece of equipment had been dangling midair from cables and chains moments before on Monday, and before that, on its front with its boom in the Boardman River.

“One down, one to go,” city Engineer Tim Lodge said.

A Team Elmer’s crew used a 190-ton crane to lift and re-right both lift trucks that afternoon after they tipped, Lodge said.

Crews looped chains around the rear axle of one lift truck, then the crane operator lifted its boom out of the water and over the bridge. Then, crews strapped the lift truck’s boom to a second cable on the big crane. Lowering the rear axle while lifting the boom re-righted the lift truck.

Anlaan Corporation was placing two barges in the river to use as construction platforms for what was the first day of a lengthy bridge rehabilitation project, city Fire Chief Jim Tuller said. Traverse City Police got a call at around 1:15 p.m. for a construction site accident.

Both lift truck operators jumped away and no one was injured, Tuller said. They had previously lowered one of the barges into the river but something went awry while lowering the second one over the bridge’s west side.

“It’s not an uncommon practice and they’re very experienced, but something was off, obviously,” he said.

Firefighters used a department boat to string an absorbent boom across the river to contain a small amount of hydraulic fluid that spilled into the river, Tuller said. Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department provided some additional boom.

Diesel and other fluids on the upended trucks seemed to be contained, Tuller said.

The booms of both tipped lift trucks damaged a wooden sidewalk on cement cantilevers that were set for replacement anyway, Lodge said.

But he wanted to ensure the incident didn’t damage the bridge’s west sidewall, and plans to examine photographs of the incident to look for cracks, Lodge said.

The bridge, also known as the American Legion Memorial Bridge, is set to have the road and soil removed so the concrete structure can be inspected and reinforced from the inside, Lodge said.

Monday was to be the first day of a lengthy overhaul, set to reopen by November, as previously reported.

It’s one of three bridges set for major work this summer, and part of a $4,912,071.99 contract for which the Michigan Department of Transportation sought bid. The state department will foot $3,966,900 from its State Local Bridge Fund, with the city to pay $1.11 million, including $432,000 in DDA tax increment finance money.

Lodge said he didn’t expect the incident would set back construction on the Cass Street Bridge.

“They just started today, so they were deploying today,” he said.

Passers-by could see it all from several spots, including the riverwalk along the river’s south bank and tables outside of Firefly.

That’s where Brianna Campeau, of Traverse City, lunched with her friend, and figures they arrived at their table shortly after the trucks tipped. Neither realized anything was wrong, until they saw police and firefighters show up.

Campeau said she was glad no one was hurt, and impressed to see Team Elmer’s bring the equipment needed to handle the tipped vehicles. It was neat to watch it all unfold, she said.

“It’s not what you would expect for your lunch outing,” she said.

Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate, and a Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy representative was on scene as well, Tuller said.

Brian Bedwell, a project manager for Anlaan Corporation, couldn’t be reached when a reporter tried to call him back.

 

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