UPDATE 8:35 a.m. June 18, 2010 – Since this story was originally published, the submerged body of missing Nebraska Central Railroad worker, Jeff Scholl, has been located. Retrieval efforts will be carried out on Friday. Ref: Norfolk Daily News
NORFOLK, NE – A Nebraska Central Railroad worker went missing after a bridge collapsed over the Elkhorn River in southwest Norfolk, Nebraska. The incident occurred in the afternoon around 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, while three railroad employees were inspecting the bridge for damage after the recent floodwaters in the area.
Norfolk is in Madison County, Nebraska in the northeastern part of the state about 110 miles northwest of Omaha.
After the bridge collapsed, two of the railroad employees made it to safety but a third was swept away in the fast moving flood waters. Initial search efforts to find the missing railroad worker on Tuesday were not successful.
One of the workers was on the structure out over the fast moving high water after the bridge collapsed. A witness who was there at the time managed to convince him to climb back over the top of the collapsed structure in order to make it to safety.
Raun Matteo, co-owner of Matteo Sand & Gravel, who witnessed the incident, said that the river was up and was pushing trees against the bridge, creating a lot of pressure and caused it to bend sideways.
As the water in the Elkhorn River continued to rush, he heard cracking and banging and felt the railroad bridge move. The force of the fast moving water caused the bridge to collapse.
The missing railroad worker was from Norfolk, NE. Rescue teams searched for the missing man following the incident. A Life Net helicopter and a Nebraska National Guard helicopter could both be seen hovering in the area.
The Nebraska State Patrol searched the waters by air. Chief Shane Weidner, of the Norfolk Fire Department, said that ground and boat searches were too dangerous just after the incident but would begin once the river receded enough to ensure that the water is no longer at a dangerous level.
Because of the rising waters, right after the bridge collapsed, emergency crews began to call for voluntary evacuations in some areas.
City Administrator Al Roder said that Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the State Patrol, workers from the Department of Roads and the Norfolk Police were all searching the river and it’s banks for the missing railroad worker.
The Nebraska Central Railroad issued a statement following the incident expressing concern for the families of the affected employees.
Below is a satellite view of the bridge over the Elkhorn River before its collapse.
As a result of the high waters, south highway 81 was barricaded at Omaha Avenue and 13th Street before the viaduct. Also closed was Omaha Avenue at First Street due to the water over the road.
Some of Norfolk’s major industries are affected by the bridge collapse, including Norfolk Iron & Metal, Louis Dreyfus Commodities ethanol plant and Nucor Steel. The bridge that collapsed is the only one providing access over the river for these industries.
Published by fela lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP