CINCINNATI — A fiery crash on a bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky could force the span to remain closed for days as officials tried to determine the amount of damage to the bridge that serves as a crucial link for interstate commerce, Kentucky's governor said Wednesday.
Drones were deployed to aid in the inspection of the Brent Spence Bridge, Gov. Andy Beshear said. Intense heat from the blaze made the bridge too hot for inspectors during part of the day, and debris from the crash was another obstacle, he said.
The bridge's closure caused detours along a major transportation artery connecting downtown Cincinnati with northern Kentucky across the Ohio River.
"The bridge, at best, will be closed several days," Beshear said in a virtual briefing earlier Wednesday. "But we ought to be prepared for more disruption, potentially significantly more disruption, than that."
Damage to the bridge and its concrete decking was visible, he said.
The governor warned that a closure lasting several days could be "optimistic."
"We won't have the details until those inspectors are there, but this is a serious accident and it is not outside the realm of possibility that we are looking at weeks," Beshear said.
Drones were being used to inspect the bridge and determine the extent of damage, Beshear said in a social media video later Wednesday. He had no updates on the bridge's condition.
"The debris is the obstacle for the inspections to begin," the governor said. "The temperature of the bridge is no longer the obstacle."
The crash occurred around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday. The governor said the crash appeared to be caused when a northbound truck jackknifed on the bridge and was struck by another truck hauling potassium hydroxide. No injuries were reported.
The crash sparked the fire, with 400 gallons of diesel fuel being the main cause, officials said. An undetermined amount of diesel fuel spilled and burned in the fire. Officials said the potassium hydroxide contributed to the heat and duration of the fire, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The closure of the bridge caused detours for motorists, and Beshear asked for patience as officials deal with the damage. Kentucky and Ohio officials said they're committed to getting the bridge repaired and reopened as quickly as possible.
Kentucky transportation officials say the bridge carries about 160,000 vehicles a day.
"The Brent Spence Bridge is a vital component of our national highway system," said Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. "A closure of any length will have a huge impact on the people who live and work in this region."
Ohio and Kentucky officials are working with federal transportation officials "to keep people and goods moving," Marchbanks said.
Officials stressed that safety will be paramount when dealing with the damage.
"We're going to make sure it's safe for our personnel to go on to inspect," Beshear said. "But then ... when we reopen it, it's going to be at a time when I would drive my family across it, so that our citizens can have confidence that it's safe."