Local News

Man's website shows trucks hitting Durham bridge

Posted July 5, 2011 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 5, 2011 7:30 p.m. EDT

— A Durham man set up a camera and a website to show the dangers of a railroad trestle into which tall trucks regularly slam.

At least 10 times in the past year, trucks have slammed into the 11-foot, 8-inch-high railroad bridge at Gregson and Peabody streets, west of downtown Durham.

The sound is "almost earth-shattering. People jump out of their chairs when it happens," said Jurgen Henn, who works in the nearby Brightleaf Square office and retail complex.

Henn set up a camera in his office in 2008 to see if he could record an accident. It didn't take long.

"After a few weeks, the first truck crashed, and the footage was spectacular," Henn said.

Three years later, his videos are a YouTube hit, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. He started a website, 11foot8.com, that has video of the wrecks, gives information about the railroad bridge and even sells T-shirts.

Henn collects mangled pieces from trucks and gets the drivers to sign them.

"It's just a hobby to have some fun," he said.

While it's fun for him, Henn hopes that the videos bring the danger to drivers' attention.

State Department of Transportation engineers said just about anything that can make the bridge safe has been done.

Signs indicate the bridge's clearance, and a sensor system triggers a blinking light to warn oversized trucks approaching the bridge. Norfolk Southern Corp. erected a metal beam in front on the bridge to reduce the number of direct hits. Inspectors check the bridge whenever a truck hits it.

Another incentive to pay attention: Most rental-truck insurance policies don't cover overhead damage.

Henn said it's up to drivers to be safe.

"Slow down. Read the signs, and act upon the information on the signs," he urged.