GARDINER — A tractor-trailer removing a concrete bridge abutment from a bridge demolition project tipped on its side Friday afternoon, closing down traffic on a portion of Church Street.

The accident happened around 12:15 p.m. Friday as a truck was making its way from Maine Avenue up Church Street to take a 50-foot section of concrete to a pit off U.S. Route 201 to be broken down.

Reports from public safety officials say the load apparently shifted and tipped the truck on its passenger side. The driver was not believed to be injured, but was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta for evaluation as a precaution, Gardiner fire Chief Al Nelson said.

The accident happened just about 12 hours after work started on the removal of the Maine Avenue bridge.

Work has been underway in Gardiner since March to make way for the removal and replacement of the Maine Avenue and Bridge Street bridges. Both cross Cobbosseecontee Stream just north of Gardiner’s downtown.

Work on this phase of the $12.6 million project is expected to take place around the clock from Friday until Nov. 1, as workers break down the bridge, set the new support structure in place and then install the superstructure.

Devin McGuire was headed home for lunch to his apartment overlooking Water Street when the truck passed him on Maine Avenue about 12:10 p.m. Because it was passing by, he took a quick photo and had looked away.

A tractor-trailer removing a concrete bridge abutment from a bridge demolition project tipped on its side Friday afternoon, closing down traffic on a portion of Church Street. Kennebec Journal photo by Jessica Lowell

“Five seconds later, right up the street, boom!” he said. “I live on the second floor of an apartment and the third-floor neighbor came running down, she was alerted to it by the big sound that shook the building.”

McGuire said a woman in a car was on Water Street at Church Street when it happened.

“She stood there for a full moment, and checked herself and her car and got in drove off,” he said. “The rest of the workers pulled the driver out of the truck and he was fine and everybody clapped. It was a near miss for a lot of folks, for me on the sidewalk, the woman in the blue car and the driver himself.”

Gardiner police Chief James Toman said the driver was on his fourth trip of moving chunks of bridge when the accident happened.

After the tractor trailer was righted and towed away around 2 p.m., Reed & Reed workers were cleaning up debris from the smashed concrete and were expected to spend the afternoon breaking the concrete into smaller chunks for removal.

Reed & Reed did not immediately return a phone call Friday afternoon.

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