Truck hits and severely damages Rapps Dam Bridge (video)

A tractor trailer damaged the Rapps Dam Covered Bridge in East Pikeland Tuesday morning when it drove through, tearing out most of the supports. Photo by Barry Taglieber

EAST PIKELAND — PennDOT crews said the Rapps Dam Covered Bridge is structurally unsound after a tractor-trailer carrying flowers damaged it by driving through it.

Although a sign warns that the bridge can only accommodate vehicles that are 10 feet high, the tractor-trailer drove into the bridge heading south on Rapps Dam Road around 9:45 a.m., causing severe damage, according to the East Pikeland Police.

Broken a beams hung from the covered bridge’s rafters or lay in splinters on the deck of the bridge and the roadway leading out.

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Cpl. Ben Martin said the truck was driven by Antoine Branham hauling flowers Centerton Nursery, a family-owned nursery in Bridgeton, N.J., when it went into the bridge. Branham was driving a leased truck at the time.

A representative for Centerton who did not give her name said they had no comment on the incident and would have no information to offer.

PennDOT crews surveyed the damage on the bridge and said it was structurally unsound. Cones and orange fencing blocked it off and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

Originally, the bridge across French Creek was constructed in 1866, according to a marker on the stone portion leading up the covered bridge. As they assessed the damage, PennDOT workers also took photographs of cracks in the stone. It’s unclear if those were caused by the truck.

After remaining on the south side of the bridge for a period of time, a tow crew took away the semi-truck. Another semi-truck was brought in to haul away the trailer which had the protective screening on the side mostly fixed.

BridgeHunter.com lists Benjamin F. Hastman as the original builder and said the 102 feet long, 14 feet wide span was “rehabilitated” in 1978.

East Pikeland’s website said the Rapps Dam Covered Bridge was one of just 15 still in use around Chester County.

Martin said the incident remains under investigation.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.