By Lorraine Cavener
Twin Falls Times-News
HANSEN – The crew from Twin Falls Crane Services was
a bit nervous Thursday (Feb. 5).
Levi Thorp, Nathan Christensen and Dustin Brower had been
involved in this type of work a number of times before, but
it wasn't every day that they were lowered in a metal basket
quite this far – 370 feet to the bottom of the Snake
In low-30-degree temperatures, they sipped ice-cold cola
just before making the descent – lowered by Jim Thorp,
owner of the crane services company and operator of the 80-ton
crane. Their task was to begin cleaning up the wreckage from
a tractor-trailer that plunged into the canyon at the Hansen
Bridge Jan 30.
The body of Oregon trucker Robert Allen MacDougall, 37,
owner of Portland-based MacDougall Trucking, was recovered
the day of the wreck. Officials have been investigating whether
he was the victim of a freak weather system that enveloped
Magic Valley for a brief period Jan. 30, when wind gusts might
have reached 60 mph. Twin Falls County Sheriff's Department
spokeswoman Nancy Howell said she had no information about
the investigation Thursday afternoon.
The Twin Falls Crane Services crew hauled about 200 yards
of crushed rock to the edge of the canyon to build the pad
the crane was sitting on Thursday, Jim Thorp said. The crushed
rock was laid over the top of the south approach to the old
suspension bridge, which was built in 1918 and was used until
the current Hansen Bridge was built.
Supports for the crane were dug down into the pavement of
the old road that crossed the suspension bridge.
Diesel from the truck's fuel tank has to be mopped up before
the truck can be pulled out of the canyon, said Twin Falls
County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Burgess, who was on hand to keep
traffic flowing across the bridge while the crew worked.
"Undoubtedly there will be more drippage as they bring
the truck up," Burgess said. "But it is not enough
to be a serious environmental concern."
The Environmental Protection Agency declared the scene a
"level one," which means a mop-up operation should
be done at the time the truck is pulled up, Burgess said.
Burgess said he planned to inspect the wreckage when it
comes to the top.
Any records in the truck that give clues about the trucker's
destination, where he was from or other information could
be used to complete the investigation, Burgess said.
Burgess was down in the canyon when the body was recovered.
"It was a pretty horrendous sight at the bottom to
see the wreckage and the victim," he said.
Another crane, this one 100 tons, will be used to lift the
truck from the canyon, Thorp said.
That was expected to take place Friday.
Before lowering the mop-up crew, Thorp lowered the basket
to test for distance and find a spot that was safe to land.
The three men who were lowered in the basket had the task
of placing absorbent pads provided by the EPA along the edges
of the Snake River near the truck. The pads attract the diesel
fuel that spilled from the truck, said Paul Seaman of the
crane services company.
From the bridge, where Seaman could see both the men in
the basket and the crane operator, he communicated by two-way
radio as the group was lowered into the canyon. Once in the
canyon, the group was directed by Seaman where to place the
As the crew worked, personnel from the Idaho Transportation
Department were on hand to oversee operations.
"It's on our property, and we have to make sure we
don't do any more damage than we need to do during the recovery,"
said Devin Rigby, an engineer with the Transportation Department's
regional office in Shoshone. "We need to make sure proper
safety precautions are taken with regard to the traffic."
Rigby said he was confident in Twin Falls Crane Services.
He has seen the company do the same type of work before.
"They pulled a car out of the canyon a couple of years
ago," Rigby said.
"We have done a lot of canyon recovery," Thorp said.
After the more than 12,000-pound tractor and more than 12,000-pound
trailer are recovered, the crane services company will spend
several more days recovering pieces of wreckage, he said.
"There is stuff scattered for half a mile," Thorp
said. "That thing virtually exploded when it hit the
Thorp said he wouldn't know what the total bill for the
job would come to until the crew was finished. But Burgess
said the cost would be a lot less than using a helicopter.
"The cost of a helicopter is phenomenal over a crane,"