Crew needs an extra blast to demolish bridge's steel

Thursday, September 30, 2004

It took two blasts to dismantle the remaining steel wreckage of Cape Girardeau's old Mississippi River bridge Wednesday.

The initial blast cut through beams and dropped much of the last remaining but partially collapsed span into the water. But a small section of the bridge remained intact, resting against a concrete pier after the blast.

Demolition contractor Scott Gustafson said about six of the explosive charges failed to detonate because a detonating wire that apparently was damaged by some of the charges that went off.

Gustafson's demolition crew reattached a detonating wire and blasted the remaining section at 12:50 p.m., cutting through some of the remaining steel beams even though the partial structure didn't drop any lower in the water.

That's because the bridge already was partially collapsed in about 20 to 25 feet of water. Gustafson said the two blasts combined did what one blast was supposed to do -- cut the span into 10 to 12 pieces that can be hauled off for salvage.

A small crowd of people witnessed the afternoon blast. Most were disappointed that the second blast was so small.

"It was a waste of time," said Natheen Johnson of Scott City who hurried to the riverfront to take a photo of the explosion only to discover it wasn't much of a blast.

It was the sixth and last blast to demolish the metal structure of a bridge that spanned the river for 76 years.

Several more blasts are planned to take down the concrete piers this fall, but MoDOT officials said the big blasts are over in the $2.23 million project. The final demolition work should be completed by November, officials said.

A couple hundred people turned out at the Cape Girardeau riverfront to watch the 7 a.m. blast as the sun rose over the water on a crisp, clear fall day.

For some, it was their first viewing of the bridge demolition. Others had been at every blast, watching the bridge go down span by span since early August.

"We've been to all of them," said Teddy Bryant of Tamms, Ill., as he and other family members waited patiently for the blast.

The blast, orchestrated by demolition contractor Dem Tech of Dubois, Wyo., involved 135 charges and 21 pounds of military-grade explosives.

KFVS12 reporter C.J. Cassidy, standing by the concrete railing at Riverfront Park and assisted by Dem Tech's Gustafson, pressed a button that set off the latest blast. Cassidy won the honor of activating the blast in a drawing last year as part of opening festivities for the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

Wednesday's blast was far less dramatic than the Sept. 9 blast, which blew up the main span over the navigation channel as planned but also prompted a chain reaction that led to the partial collapse of two remaining spans.

A blast Sept. 23 cut through a partially collapsed 314-foot-long span, dropping it into shallow water near the Illinois side.

Wednesday's blast tore through the jackknifed 671-foot-long span which initially had been damaged by the Sept. 9 explosion.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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