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Race to reopen key Nebraska route

Four tractor-trailer trucks slammed into the bridge during the accident.
Four tractor-trailer trucks slammed into the bridge during the accident.

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LINCOLN, Nebraska (CNN) -- Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns Saturday ordered that all available resources be used to clear wreckage from a deadly accident that caused a bridge to collapse onto one of the nation's busiest interstates.

A tractor-trailer slammed into the center support of an overpass bridge Friday night on Interstate 80, killing the driver. Several people were injured, but not seriously, Johanns' office said in a statement Saturday.

The accident left a six-mile stretch of one of the nation's main transcontinental highways closed at the opening of the Memorial Day holiday. It is not known how soon the highway would reopen.

The crash occurred in the southwestern corner of Nebraska just before the exit for Interstate 76, which runs through northeastern Colorado to Denver. After I-76, I-80 continues west, climbing into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Johanns, in the statement, said, "We are going to do everything we can to reopen the roadway as quickly as possible. Interstate 80 is a vital part of Nebraska's and the nation's transportation system."

John Craig, the Director of the Nebraska Department of Roads, said in a statement that "crews will work 24-hours a day" to reopen the highway.

The accident occurred Friday at about 8:57 p.m. MT, when a semitrailer traveling westbound along I-80 in a rural part of the state west of Big Springs left the roadway, drove onto the median and hit the center support for a county road overpass, according to a statement Saturday from the governor's office.

"The collision caused the overpass to collapse onto the semi and partially block" lanes in both directions, and the truck "caught fire and was completely destroyed," the governor's office statement said.

It added the driver, who has not yet been identified, died while being taken to a nearby hospital in Colorado.

"This is an unfortunate, tragic accident and my prayers go out to the family of the victim," Johanns said in the statement.

Another truck "was in the passing lane at the time of the collapse and is stuck underneath the structure," although the driver escaped, while two other trucks struck the partially collapsed bridge and managed to offload their cargo, the statement said. The three drivers suffered only "minor injuries such as bumps and bruises," the statement added.

Several other vehicles struck debris from the accident but faced only minor problems, the governor's office said.

The accident is under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol, the Deuel County Sheriff's Office, and the Deuel County Attorney's Office, according to the statement.

Nebraska has implemented alternate routes for drivers in the area while the wreckage is cleared.

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