HARRISBURG, Pa. – Emergency crews secured the scene of a wall and parking lot collapse Thursday on the east end of the Mulberry Street bridge crossing over the 100 block of South Cameron Street.
Cameron Street was open to traffic around 9 p.m. Thursday after a closure of about four hours. The Mulberry Street bridge will remain closed at least until noon Friday. Tomorrow morning, PennDOT engineers will assess the situation to see if the bridge is safe for vehicle traffic.
“It was an enormous crash,” Howard Henry, owner of Howard Tire & Auto Shop on Cameron Street, said. “We were on this side of the building and it thundered the ground. It felt like an earthquake.”
Henry’s shop and the motorcycle shop next door suffered significant damage, as a four-story wing wall that was part of the bridge gave way around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. A parking lot at the McFarland Press building also came crashing down onto the industrial buildings below. A gray sedan that was in the parking lot sat atop the rubble, but it was vacant, according to Harrisburg fire Chief Brian Enterline.
The Press building was evacuated as a precaution, with several apartment residents displaced.
“We couldn’t imagine what it would have been,” Henry said. “We came out of the building and looked up and saw that. I just was in total disbelief.”
Somehow, no one was injured. Search dogs examined the rubble Thursday night due to concerns that homeless people may have been in the vicinity, but the search thankfully came up empty.
“We brought the dogs in, were able to do some searches of where our folks didn’t get to the first time,” Enterline said. “So we were able to look at both sides of the pile. We are fairly certain that we had nobody in the collapse.”
Firefighters had been training nearby and were quick to respond.
“Their radio transmission was, ‘We just had a car fall off the Mulberry Street bridge onto Cameron Street,'” Enterline said. “They didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until they actually pulled in and then saw the rubble pile.”
PennDOT had reinforced the bridge last summer, saying it was structurally sound. It’s a claim Henry disputes, saying that during that reinforcement work, a piece of the wall fell onto his roof back then.
“They cut a slab off of that wall there, because it fell onto my roof, so they went and cut the rest of it off saying that it might fall, but not repairing that wall at all saying that it was structurally sound,” Henry said. “I don’t know how sound that looks.”
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