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A large turbine tower struck the highway as "a couple welds broke free" during a turn at the intersection of highways 70 and 14 in Elgin. The accident occurred at approximately 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday.
"It looks like there was an equipment malfunction," said Sgt. Eric Pfeiffer of the Nebraska State Patrol. "A couple welds broke free that hold the fifth wheel plate to the tractor frame. As he was going up the hill and around the corner, it broke free. Luckily, the other side held, or it would've been a much bigger mess."
At the time of the accident, S. Wayne Blush II, 50, of Natalia, Texas was driving a 2012 Peterbilt semi truck pulling two 2012 Trail King trailers, which were carrying a roughly 130,000-pound wind turbine tower base.
Blush was traveling from Newton, Iowa to O'Neill, and was driving for American Wind Transport Group, LLC, a company based out of Pittsburg, Penn. He was heading north on Highway 14 and attempted to turn west onto Highway 70 when the welds snapped. Blush was not injured in the accident.
"It blew at least three tires on the trailer because it put all the pressure on the outside duals," Sgt. Pfeiffer said
He said it was difficult to tell if there was any damage to the highway or to the turbine tower at this time.
The officer said the driver was taking the route directed by his permit. There were no violations and no citations were issued against him.
"It was nothing (the driver) did," Sgt. Pfeiffer said. "There was nothing that could've been prevented."
Shortly after the accident happened, Antelope County Sheriff Bob Moore said Highway 14 was being closed to truck traffic from Highway 14 in Neligh south to Petersburg until further notice.
Kramer's Wrecker Service Inc. of Grand Island was eventually called to remove the overturned turbine tower from the highway. Three wreckers arrived on the scene around 2 p.m. Several hours were spent studying the truck and trailer to determine the best strategy for removal. The broken welds would make the process more difficult, according to Tim Bartz, owner of Kramer's Wrecker Service.
"We are rigged to roll the truck and trailer this way (southwest), releasing the front, getting rid of the jeep that's broken, hooking the tractor back on it and letting it back down," Bartz said. "Our factor we don't know is the back is broke loose in this rigging here between the truck and the trailer."
Things turned out to be even more labor-intensive than first expected as the workers spent more than seven hours on the scene, rehooking trailers and moving wreckers several times to reposition the trailers. Finally, the turbine tower was backed onto North Street, next to One Stop in Elgin. Barricades were put in place on North Street. Highways 14 and 70 were opened up to traffic about 9:45 p.m.