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Temporary water main in place after train derails, but traffic still detoured

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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCIV) – Not much has changed since the train derailment in Berkeley County Monday evening. The bridge is still shut down to traffic and cars are being routed to Highway 52 as part of a 22-mile detour.

The four cars that came off the tracks Monday night have been cleared from the area, but the scene of the derailment is only part of the affected area.

On the ground, police officers stand by barricades of the crash. Only a bird’s eye view reveals the extent of the damage on Cypress Gardens Road.

Officials say a CSX train derailed and a bridge crumbled on top of the cars, taking out a roadway. Engineers said the bridge is a total loss, so there will be no attempt to repair it. They will start the process immediately to replace it with a new bridge.

The bridge collapse also broke a 12-inch water main, leaving a Berkeley County neighborhood and a host of industrial businesses without water. As of Tuesday morning, Berkeley County Water and Sanitation officials said 21 residential customers were without water along with several industrial customers. Now that a temporary main has been installed, but there is a boil advisory for the Cypress Gardens and Bushy Park area until further notice.

Officials said the train was empty at the time several cars derailed at Cypress Gardens Road. The Whitesville Fire Department was coordinating the clean-up Monday night. Officials on the ground said the NTSB was being called in to help, but federal officials said no decision has been made to send in an NTSB crew yet.

No injuries have been reported. However, a driver had to jump the collapse bridge with his car. Officials say the bridge collapse is under investigation. The Cypress Garden Road bridge is closed.

Department of Transportation officials said morning commuters would be redirected to Goose Creek and Red Bank Road until the area is cleared. It's creating an extra-long commute for some residents. 

"My wife works near Berkeley Middle School, so she called me this morning and said it took her about an extra 30 minutes to go all the way around," said Edward Almers. 

The route send people on to Redbank Road, so there was plenty more traffic there, too. 

"It had backed up probably half a mile, a mile down the road," said Rhonda Kierpiec. "It was moving but certainly heavier than recent memory."

Goose Creek High School sits on the route, but administrators said all buses were on time Tuesday. However, Principal Jimmy Huskey has a warning for parents. 

"Monitor the situation and see how traffic is flowing," he said. "You may need to leave a little earlier to get to school during that time." 


DOT declares bridge a total loss

Department of Transportation Acting Secretary Christy Hall declared an emergency situation Tuesday.

Crews said the derailed cars had been moved off the tracks and CSX crews are clearing some of the remaining sections of the bridge that could pose a hazard to more rail traffic.

DOT officials at the scene have declared the Cypress Gardens Road bridge a total loss and now engineers are working out a plan to replace the bridge. That means the 22-mile detour will be in place until a new bridge is installed, officials said.

DOT officials said the bridge sees 6,200 vehicles per day; trucks account for 5 percent of that traffic.

According to the DOT, the bridge was built in 1936 using steel beams and timber piles, and rebuilt in 1975 to widen it using concrete slabs.

DOT records show the bridge was last inspected on Oct. 29, 2013 and rated to be in fair-to-satisfactory condition. The bridge had not been structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

At Cypress Gardens, officials say the park is still open but people can only use the Bushy Park entrance to get in. The Oakley Road entrance has been shut down as a result of the derailment. Visitors planning a trip or event at Cypress Gardens can check with the park directly for road updates by calling 843-553-0515.




County, DOT say bridge detour a 'top priority'

On Tuesday morning, Berkeley County officials said they had devised a plan to restore water and divert traffic around the Cypress Gardens Road bridge.

According to Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis, the county is working closely with state engineers and the state DOT to find a quick solution for the residents and businesses and Bushy Park industries.

Officials said engineers spent the day looking at the possibility of spanning the bridge with a temporary water pipe, which could restore water within a day and still allow crews to work on a permanent solution. The engineers had the pipe in place by 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the county issued a boil water advisory for the area.

The SCDOT has set up a detour that will send traffic around Bushy Park via Highway 52 and Redbank Road. According to officials, traffic lights in Goose Creek will be adjusted to handle the increase in traffic.

“Berkeley County and the SCDOT are taking emergency measures to restore the bridge,” says Davis. “The collapse was pretty significant and will take time to rebuild.”

According to Davis, officials are exploring the possibility of acquiring an emergency bridge, which is currently being used in the upstate. The temporary bridge would allow traffic through the area while a new span is being built.

County leaders have also asked Gov. Nikki Haley for a disaster declaration, which would shorten the amount of time it would take to get a new bridge built. That request was approved Tuesday afternoon; Haley declared a disaster area for Cypress Gardens Road.

“Bottom line, Berkeley County and the SCDOT have made this a top priority,” says Davis. “We are exploring every possible option to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”




Neighbors: Bridge has been a problem for years

People who have lived in this rural stretch of Berkeley County say Cypress Garden Road bridge has always had problems and been in need of repairs.

Alonzo McKnight said he was sitting on his porch Monday night when he heard the impact of several CSX trains derailing and the bridge collapsing on top of it.

“It sounded like the bridge went ‘Boom!’ and I heard it boom two times,” he said.

Neighbors who live in the area say they are not surprised the bridge collapsed.

“That bridge right there been old a long time. It needs a repair,” said McKnight.

He says the bridge is so old they can hear it straining with the weight of trucks going back and forth over it. McKnight says he drives across the bridge every day, but he’s glad he didn’t cross it Monday night, fearing it could have collapsed under him.

Now he’s among those who have to take the 22-mile detour to get to work, so he’s hopeful the repairs happen soon.

“I hope to the Lord they come up with a good bridge, I hope so. I hope the build a good bridge,” he said.




911 calls show early confusion

As investigators work to determine whether the bridge collapsed and derailed the train, or if the train did something to cause the collapse, 911 calls show that was a question from the beginning.

"The train either hit the bridge or the bridge collapse and hit the train, but we've got the train is off the tracks under the bridge and the bridge is completely out," said one 911 caller. "There's probably a 12-foot gap in the bridge."

The caller said a driver "learned the hard way" and jumped the gap in his truck. The dispatcher asked the caller if the driver hit the bridge.

"It jumped over the bridge. He didn’t see it I guess until the last second. It was already over it and he kept going (inaudible) to the side," the caller said.

"But he's fine?" the dispatcher asked.

"He's okay. The truck's totaled, but he's good," the caller said.

The caller also said a person on the train was not sure if the bridge came down or if the train hit it.

"I would bet it was the bridge fell down. It looks like it's kind of wore out underneath," said the caller. "There's nothing odd about the train."




'It was like the Duke boys'

Berkeley County Rescue Squad Chief Bill Salisbury says the CSX freight train was traveling to Moncks Corner, when the bridge collapsed. Officials on scene say five empty train cars were underneath the collapsed bridge. Salisbury says at the time of the collapse a Chevy truck was fast approaching the overpass.

“Look here it was like the Duke boys. He came up the bridge and flew over the missing part, of the roadway on the other side,” said Salisbury.

Salisbury says the man was headed towards Highway 52 and was unable to stop so he accelerated. The man landed safely in a ditch with obvious damage to the car.

“He said it happened so fast he didn’t have time to think about it, his reaction was to speed up,” said Salisbury.

Officials have requested the NTSB and the Department of Transportation to survey the damage.

CSX issued this statement: "A CSX train serving the Charleston area derailed tonight in Cordesville, S.C. The train had two locomotives and 72 rail cars. Four empty cars derailed. No injuries have been reported. We are working with local authorities to clear the area."

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