Area man killed in Oklahoma bridge collapse
Divers earlier this week pulled the body of U.S. Army Capt. Andrew F. Clements of Woodbridge from the murky Arkansas River where he plunged to his death after an out-of-control barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge on Sunday and knocked out a 500-foot section of highway in Webbers Falls, Okla.
The body of Clements, who was found in his car, is one of 14 recovered from the site of the accident, which sent about a dozen vehicles plunging 62 feet into the river. Authorities called off the search Wednesday after finding the body of a 3-year-old girl floating a half-mile downstream.
”They have exhausted every hot spot,” said Lt. Brandon Kopepasah of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Clements, 34, is survived by his wife, Nicole, and four children, Alexandra, 9, Michael, 4, Christina, 2, and Andrew David, 9 weeks.
The West Point graduate and field artillery officer was on his way back east after finishing post-graduate work in Monterey, Calif., said Martha Redd, a spokeswoman for the Army. Clements, who was studying business and public policy, had picked up his German shepherd and cat and was making his way to Alexandria, where he and his family were set to move into a new home.
By Sunday morning, he was crossing the I-40 bridge when the barge hit.
”What were the odds of something like that happening?” asked Ronald Clements, his father.
Police needed dental records to confirm Clements’ identity, but photos of the crushed car had already provided the answer: There was a dog cage in the back seat.
Crews using sonar and a large crane have pulled 10 vehicles from the water. Authorities believe more victims will be found.
Nicole Clements would not comment Wednesday, but Phil Washburn, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Testing and Evaluating Command Center (ATEC), the agency Clements was set to join upon his return, released a statement on behalf of the family.
“The Army and the nation have lost a fine soldier in a tragic accident,” said ATEC Cmdr. Maj. Gen. John J. Marcello in the statement. “Captain Clements had a great military record and we were all looking forward to him becoming a part of the ATEC team. At this time, our concern is for his family and many friends, and I offer my heartfelt condolences on behalf of all of ATEC.”
Clements had been approved for promotion to the rank of major and the promotion was scheduled to take effect next week.
He was born in York County, Pa.
Mountcastle Funeral Home on Dale Boulevard is handling funeral arrangements.