FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Water rescue crews pulled two bodies from a pickup truck that had crashed into the Maumee River Thursday morning.
The Allen County Coroner’s office identified the two as Tamee Ann Staulters, 44, and Mark Wayne Staulters, 53, both of Fort Wayne. The cause of death was ruled to be asphyxia due to drowning.
Emergency crews were called out at around 7:20 a.m. when a person who regularly drives over the Tecumseh Street Bridge noticed fresh damage to the bridge, which included a missing section of the bridge rail.
The driver pulled over and looked at the bridge. He noticed an oily sheen on the surface of the water. Police arrived on the scene shortly after that.
There are marks on the road where the truck went into the water. However, the investigation has not yet determined why the truck veered off the bridge.
The Fort Wayne Fire Department’s water rescue team removed the bodies of the man and woman from the truck and pulled them to shore.
Parkers Towing Service used a heavy duty rig to pull the truck out of the river.
The victims’ pickup broke through a concrete barrier before falling off the bridge.
“It being a concrete barrier and with safety built into it, I’m sure it would have to require a significant blow to do the damage that is sustained here on the scene,” said Michael Joyner with the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Crews have put up an orange plastic barrier to cover the gap where the truck went through. Within the next week, crews will replace that with a metal guard rail.
The truck had writing on the side indicating it belonged to Shawnee Construction and Engineering. NewsChannel 15 tried contacting the company Thursday but didn’t hear back.
A car went into the river at the same location in July. That driver was pronounced dead at the hospital soon after emergency crews pulled him out of the river. A metal guard rail also covers the gap in the barrier from July’s incident.
The bridge was built in 1913. Among other things, crews installed limestone handrails in 2009 during major renovations.
Still, a 2013 study found the Tecumseh Street Bridge was “structurally deficient.” It was one of dozens in Allen County that received that label.
Mike Green, Allen County public information officer, said just because a bridge receives that label doesn’t mean it’s dangerous.
“There’s been no indication that the design of the structure itself played a role in terms of these two tragedies,” Green said.
Green hopes crews will replace the metal guardrails with limestone handrails by the summer of 2014.
Tecumseh Street was closed from Columbia Avenue to Coombs Street as officials work on the scene of the crash.