Broken shaft causes problems at G.I. bridge

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Aug 28, 2013 - 01:49 PM

Photo: Local watermen came to the rescue Sunday afternoon, using two of their boats to pull shut the disabled Gwynn’s Island Bridge after its main shaft broke while it opened for marine traffic. Above, from left, Capt. Donnie Smith and sons Lee and Jason Smith are shown doing the good deed, which allowed traffic to move across the span once again. On the other boat, not pictured, were Capt. Todd Smith and Tracey Smith. Photo courtesy of Tillie Love

Local watermen came to the rescue Sunday afternoon, using two of their boats to pull shut the disabled Gwynn’s Island Bridge after its main shaft broke while it opened for marine traffic. Above, from left, Capt. Donnie Smith and sons Lee and Jason Smith are shown doing the good deed, which allowed traffic to move across the span once again. On the other boat, not pictured, were Capt. Todd Smith and Tracey Smith. Photo courtesy of Tillie Love

The Gwynn’s Island bridge was closed for about four hours Sunday afternoon to vehicular traffic; boats will be unable to pass through The Narrows until at least the weekend.

VDOT Saluda Residency administrator Sean Trapani said that the shaft used to swing the bridge open broke just after noon Sunday while the bridge was in the open position.

The Mathews County Sheriff’s Office alerted residents of the malfunction through its CodeRed Alert System. The initial message was sent out at 4 p.m. notifying residents that the bridge was stuck open and another message was sent out about 30 minutes later notifying residents the bridge had been closed, and was reopened to cars and trucks.

Trapani said two private boat owners volunteered to use their vessels to pull the bridge shut. "It is locked now and open to (vehicular) traffic," he said. "However, it cannot open to river traffic."

According to Trapani, he sent all of his crews to the bridge Sunday upon learning of its malfunction, but there was little VDOT workers could do once they learned the shaft was broken.

The broken part was being removed from the bridge Monday morning, Trapani said, and all of its pieces were being sent off to be fixed or for a new shaft to be fabricated.