The drivers of tall trucks on occasion have misjudged the height and struck the railroad overpass on Brosterhous Road in southeast Bend, causing damage and traffic headaches – but Tuesday’s crash was worse, as it involved a truck carrying 76 cattle, four of which were killed, authorities said.
Police were dispatched around 2:40 p.m. to the crash scene and found a 1996 Peterbilt semi tractor and trailer from Conley Cattle of Prineville had tried to pass under the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway bridge, heading north, where the clearance is about 12 feet, 10 inches, said Lt. Nick Parker.
The trailer, carrying 76 cows and calves, sustained “substantial damage” when it struck the bridge, Parker said, adding that neither the driver, William Conley, 57, of Prineville, nor a passenger were injured and no other vehicles were involved.
The truck had been diverted onto Brosterhous Road due to another crash that was blocking Knott Road, Parker said.
Officers spent hours working to safely remove the cattle, assisted by Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies and city and county public works crews.
"Unfortunately, four calves died during the incident," Parker said Wednesday.
Parker said the crash remained under investigation, and he did not have the tally of injured cattle.
"I was told there is a warning sign before the bridge and there is one posted on the bridge," he said.
Paul Neiswonger, city street supervisor acknowledged Wednesday the bridge is low, and noted it has been hit 3-4 times in recent years.
"There's been some discussion of changes," he said, such as limiting trucks allowed on Brosterhous or not allowing them at all. Big changes would need to involve the railroad, while lowering the road would create a dip that would replace one problem with another -- possible flooding.
So for now, the main message: "Pay attention to the signs."
An emergency veterinarian was called in to assess the injured cattle, while BNSF workers evaluated the bridge for structural damage and found none, Parker said.
With Brosterhous Road closed for more than four hours, reopening around 7 p.m., traffic was diverted at Knott and Murphy roads, though residents were allowed access to their homes on each side of the bridge.
On Wednesday, Parker offered thanks to several "agencies and citizens (who) quickly responded to the scene and provided support, equipment and expertise. These additional resources ensured no one was injured, the cattle were relocated, and the roadway was cleared.
"Specifically, the Bend police is appreciative of all the resources the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office contributed, which included an inmate work crew.," Parker said in the update.
"The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office also provided fenced land for the cattle to be temporarily stored," he wrote. "The Deschutes County Fairgrounds provided portable loading chutes. Multiple citizens provided livestock trailers for transporting the cows and calves. Additionally, local veterinarians responded and offered assistance."