MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Local and state authorities continued searching Monday for the driver of a concrete truck who collided with another truck on the Emerald Mountain Toll Bridge Saturday morning and plunged into the Tallapoosa River. Around 3:30 p.m. CT, Sergeant Steve Jarrett with Alabama State Troopers told WSFA the wreckage of the truck had been located.
Alabama State Trooper Jess Thornton told Alabama News Network that Lonnie Phillips, 66, of Shorter, Ala., was hauling 80,000 pounds of concrete when he had a head-on collision with another Oshkosh concrete-mixing truck about 5:30 a.m. The collision forced Mr. Phillips’ truck off of the bridge embankment.
After hours of searching, Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collie said the search for Mr. Phillips went from a search and rescue operation to recovery mission. Responders had to cease their search late Saturday because high water, strong currents, and low visibility caused by recent heavy rain storms made it too dangerous to put divers in the water.
Now that the truck has been located, divers are working to connect the vehicle to a large tow truck to recover it, along with the body of the driver. Work is being hampered by the strong current and the steep embankment.
Multiple agencies were involved in the search, including the Elmore County Emergency Management Agency, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) State Troopers, the ALEA Marine Patrol, the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery Fire Department, and the Emerald Mountain Fire Department.
Poor conditions persisted through Sunday and Monday, making search and recovery efforts difficult. The operations caused the toll bridge to shut down for nearly 12 hours. Officials reopened one lane of the bridge for a short while to allow traffic through, but the bridge has now been closed again and will remain closed until recovery operations are complete.
Authorities have not said what caused the two trucks to collide. The accident remains under investigation.