Driver in Southfield collapse ID'd
Detroit — The northbound Southfield Freeway reopened Friday evening after crews removed a pedestrian overpass bridge that collapsed when a waste hauling truck struck it, killing the driver.
The southbound side is expected to reopen some time Friday night, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Around 6 a.m. Stanford Michael Doll, 54, of Almont was traveling north on the freeway when his waste hauling truck struck the Cathedral Street overpass near Joy Road. The structure collapsed across both northbound and southbound M-39, killing Doll. No one else was injured.
"We're pretty confident about what happened. For one reason or another, the back of his truck was fully extended when it struck the overpass," said Lt. Michael Shaw of the Michigan State Police. "It kind of hooked into the bridge and then the truck continued through with enough momentum to pull the bridge down."
Debbie Shaw of Commerce Township, a friend of Doll, said she was on her way home from work Friday afternoon when she learned it was Doll who died in the crash. The two attended Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, where he grew up, she said.
"I was just shocked and devastated," she said. "Back in the day he was just wonderful. He was just so much fun. He was a great friend to have growing up."
Doll worked for TLC Waste Disposal Services in Romulus, Shaw said.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office, Doll had a valid commercial driver's license and no violations on his driving record.
"Our investigation is pretty much done," Shaw said. "There won't be any prosecution."
According to witnesses, the truck driver staggered from the cab of the truck and collapsed on the shoulder of the roadway. He was transported to Sinai-Grace Hospital where he died. An autopsy is expected Saturday, said Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
Doll would have lived if he had been wearing a seat belt, Shaw said.
Authorities shut the freeway in both directions from Interstate 96 to Joy Friday morning. The collapse was not due to any structural issue, according to officials.
"We received a call at about 6 a.m. that some type of waste hauler had hit the pedestrian overpass with its boom up," MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said. "It struck the overpass and knocked out the entire structure. No one was on the overpass or driving beneath it at the time."
Barnika Cage, who lives a block northeast of the bridge, woke up at 5:40 a.m., heard the nearby train, then a big "boom."
She came down the street and saw the bridge had collapsed. Cage saw a man get out of the truck.
"There was blood all over his face," Cage said.
Cage said her 17-year-old daughter, DeShanna, walks the bridge every day to go to Cody High School. She has to be there at 7 a.m. so Cage felt relieved the bridge hadn't collapsed later.
"I'm glad nobody was on that bridge or under it," she said.
Students at Cody didn't have problems getting to school (Friday) morning, according to DPS spokesman Steve Wasko.
"Principal (Johnathon) Matthews at Cody APL reported … everyone arrived safe and sound," Wasko said. "There are alternative crossings at West Chicago and Joy roads. Our (police department) worked very effectively to assist with student safety and safe passage this morning."
Wasko said the DPS police sergeants deployed early morning units to the Cody area to patrol east-west streets that led to Cody.
"Additionally, a volunteer patrol group, Brothers on Patrol, provided special attention to alternate walk routes," Wasko said. "Our units worked cooperatively with DPD. There are no other issues with schools in the area."
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was among those in traffic near the bridge at the time of the collapse. He was seen walking near the collapsed bridge afterward.
The Lions confirmed Stafford was in a vehicle that was among the first to come to the bridge after the collapse. He didn't see the bridge go down and was unhurt, the team said. He was on his way to the Lions' Allen Park practice facility.
In the center median, a concrete column has been broken in half. Traffic on the freeway backed up for miles and Michigan State Police pushed traffic onto the service drives.
Jay Timmons, who lives on Archdale, a street behind the freeway, was jolted awake before 6 a.m. by a loud noise.
"I jumped straight out of bed," Timmons said. "I thought one of my neighbors' houses had exploded. Our house shook."
Timmons looked out the back of his house and saw something on the freeway. He thought a truck had been in an accident and saw the bridge had collapsed when he arrived at the scene.
"Everybody was getting out of their cars, and asking, 'Is everybody OK?' 'Is anybody under the bridge,'" Timmons said. "Everyone was concerned."
Had it happened earlier, kids could have been hurt since so many gather on the bridge and wait for the bus to arrive.
"I'm glad it wasn't during school hours," said Michael Wade, who lives across the street from Timmons.
Detroit News Staff Writer Shawn D. Lewis contributed.