Man plunges truck in hole on the washed-out Richardson Highway

Barnes said he didn’t realize the road was closed or that the bridge at Bear Creek had washed...
Barnes said he didn’t realize the road was closed or that the bridge at Bear Creek had washed out.(ktuu)
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:05 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It seems remarkable that 64-year-old Bob Barnes wasn’t seriously injured when he drove his truck into a 20-foot hole near a washed out bridge on the Richardson Highway last week. Barnes said he didn’t realize the road was closed or that the bridge at Bear Creek had washed out.

“I don’t see it till I’m right on it, and then I just slammed my brakes and skidded right into that hole, and down we go,” Barnes said.

Barnes was driving his truck back from Fairbanks to his home in the Copper River Valley on a rainy Monday night when it happened. He figures he was going about 55 miles per hour when he drove into the hole. He was able to climb out of his truck, but getting out of the hole proved more difficult. Barnes said he had to claw his way up a steep embankment and had managed to make a grab at the guardrail when something amazing happened, he realized there was another man standing by the bridge.

Andy Culbertson from Fairbanks was taking video of the washout when he noticed Barnes’ hand on the guardrail. Barnes said Culbertson grabbed a rope from his vehicle that he tied to the guardrail to help Barnes make the final push to free himself.

“So I wrapped the rope around my arm, about 10 wraps around that, so I got it in a good grip and I got the guardrail in the other one and yeah, I just heaved myself up and over that thing and hey I’m alive,” Barnes said.

Barnes is alive, but he lost his truck, his tools and he’s also angry. He doesn’t think the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities gave enough warning that the road was closed and the bridge was washed out.

“There was no road closed or anything like that, or like a DOT truck, you know, with its flashers on,” Barnes said. “There was nobody, there was nothing.”

Department Spokesperson Danielle Tessen disputes Barnes’ version of events.

“On Monday, July 11 flash floods began on the Richardson Highway,” Tessen wrote in an email. “In response to this dynamic weather event we posted message boards indicating the washout, posted to and shared a local alert on social media. Our maintenance and operation crews responded by blocking the highway with a DOTPF piece of equipment and posting road signage.”

Barnes said didn’t see those postings and while he admits he did drive around a large dump truck that was partially blocking the highway, he didn’t know it belonged to the department or that it indicated the road was closed. He said he’s considering legal action but it’s up to him to prove there was negligence.

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