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Police and fire

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
USI Consultants' Bonnie Money (front) and Rob Coop assess the damage on the Spencerville Covered Bridge on Thursday morning in DeKalb County. On Wednesday, a tractor-trailer rig exceeded the height restriction causing heavy damage.

Truck rig does $100,000 damage to covered bridge

Courtesy Lisa Vetters
Wednesday's damage

The Spencerville Covered Bridge has a clearance of 12 feet, 6 inches. A sign at the entrance states this fact.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, a tractor-trailer rig exceeding the height limit rumbled through the historic wooden bridge, thrashing the roof trusses throughout the structure, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department said.

Officers were dispatched to the bridge at 1:26 p.m., and the truck driver, Gerard Hudson, 46, of Waukegan, Ill., admitted to driving through the bridge that spans the St. Joseph River near Spencerville, the department said.

Hudson told officers his GPS device had directed him to drive under the bridge. His misadventure resulted in more than $100,000 in damage, according to the department.

Hudson was arrested and booked into the DeKalb County Jail on a felony charge of criminal mischief. He was being held Wednesday night in lieu of $1,500 bail. County Highway Superintendent Eric Patton closed the red-and-white bridge to traffic because of the damage. Structural engineers will be contacted to assess the condition of the bridge, the sheriff's department said.

According to the Indiana Historical Bureau's website, the bridge has been in use since it was built in 1873. It underwent an extensive restoration in 1981 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year, the site said. In August, the community hosts the Spencerville Covered Bridge Festival to celebrate the structure.

Lisa Vetter, who lives about 1 ½ miles from the bridge, said news of the damage ruined the day for many area residents.

"This is a huge travesty for the community here," the 52-year-old said. "People worked really hard to save that bridge."