U.S. 69/75 Red River bridge extremely hazardous during winter weather

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BRYAN COUNTY, OK -- Authorities say there have been about 40 accidents on the Red River Bridge over the past 10 years and nearly half of those were caused by snow and ice on the roadway. Kristen Shanahan spoke with a trooper and drivers Monday and looked into who is responsible for driver safety on the bridge during dangerous winter weather.

Trooper James Reinecker helped respond to Sunday night's triple fatality accident on the Red River Bridge. He says the family of nine was headed to Mexico when their vehicle lost control on ice and tragedy struck.

"You could obviously see it had been snowing. A lot of slush on the roadway and after dark it tends to freeze up pretty quickly," Reinecker said. .

Colbert resident Charlene Barnett says her heart sank when she learned two people, including a child died on the bridge that she has traveled for more than 40 years.

"Like somebody squeezed the life out of me. That was a family," Barnett said.

Barnett says she has known others who have lost their lives due to slick conditions on the bridge. She says she has driven across it before when its been iced over, but does not dare anymore.

"I've crossed it with six inches of ice with no sand on it many many times," Barnett said.

When News 12 asked how she made it through she replied, "with God riding on my shoulder or I wouldn't have made it."

During winter weather bridges and overpasses are especially dangerous because there is cold air above and beneath the bridge that freezes anything wet on the roads a lot quicker with no warm ground underneath to thaw it out.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says the US 69/75 Red River bridge is in TXDOT's jurisdiction, but ODOT says both agencies sand and salt the bridge during winter weather.

"We want that bridge to be clear so those people who are traveling back and forth between Texas and Oklahoma can get to their destination safely. So it's really both in our interest," ODOT Spokesman Cole Hackett said.

ODOT confirms both the north and southbound lanes had been treated several times before Sunday night's accident, but Reinecker says it is also up to the drivers to take extra precaution to ensure their safety.

"If we're getting ice and you know we're getting ice. If you can postpone plans and just stay off the roads that's the best. If you have to travel. Leave early and allow yourself extra time to get to your destination and always be aware of where bridges are," Reinecker said.

Reinecker also reminds drivers who must drive in icy conditions to reduce their speed significantly, especially when coming up upon an overpass or bridge.