Watch yet another truck get stuck under the 'Canopener Bridge'

Think the low-clearance warning signs on an infamous North Carolina bridge don't apply to you? If you're wrong, the world may be watching you on video.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
3 min read

It happened again on Tuesday. Yet another truck driver saw the low-clearance warning signs on Durham, North Carolina's infamous "Canopener Bridge" and decided, "You know what? I think my truck can squeeze under that!"

Spoiler: it could not.

The crash was No. 112 since Jürgen Henn started monitoring the action with two cameras trained on the bridge, posting videos and reports of the unlucky drivers to his site 11foot8.com, named for the bridge's height.

"The crashes like the last one, where the truck is just a tad too tall and it gets wedged under the crash beam, I find interesting because I often see trucks driving under the bridge that juuuust fit," Henn said. "They do trigger the warning sign, but they just slip under the bridge anyway. Heck, the truck that got stuck (Tuesday) might have made it had it been fully loaded and heavier. Those trucks are a good reminder of all the close calls in our life that we don't even notice, where we just slip by disaster, and we don't even know it."

Henn, who works for Duke University in an office right by the bridge, details the history of the 100-year-old train trestle on his site. He estimates that a truck is visibly damaged trying to squeeze under it about once a month, despite numerous warning signs, including one that flashes lights when a too-tall truck approaches.

"The drivers are often inexperienced -- just a guy who rented a truck to move some stuff," Henn says. "But many also drive for a living and are likely to lose their jobs after such an incident. I estimate it's roughly a 50/50 split between rentals and company trucks."

Thankfully, Henn says he's never seen any serious injuries from the accidents, although he does note seeing one unbuckled driver hit his head on the windshield. "But he seemed OK afterwards," Henn said.

The stuck box truck of this week was nothing compared with some of the crashes, which often peel open the roof of a truck in a way that gave the bridge its "Canopener Bridge" nickname. Back in January, Crash No. 103 did just that.

"I think this one is impressive, because it's such a clean slice and he leaves such a nice present," Henn said. He's not kidding about a "present," as he often helps clean up crash debris, and even gives certain artfully twisted pieces a name and sells them online. "I even have some pieces that are signed by the driver," Henn said.

Henn's been filming for seven years, and it's easy to happily get lost in his video archive, if that's your thing, watching such films as, "Camper tries to sneak up on the 11-foot-8 bridge," "Nighttime crash damages forklift on truck (audio only)" and "Rental truck hits the bridge and everyone helps clean up."

Response to the project has been positive, with dozens of readers commenting on the videos and on Henn's site. Many suggest ways to change the bridge or the signage, though it seems some drivers would risk the close call even if someone personally knocked on their windshield with a warning.

"People seem to find this project entertaining and many are very supportive," Henn said. "There are quite a few fans of the site among local police and the DOT (Department of Transportation) folks who installed the warning signs. Quite a few driving instructors use the footage from my site as instructional material."

Sometimes, even those involved in the accidents respond.

"One driver actually knew about the site and commented on it when I spoke with him after the crash," Henn said. "'He said something like, 'Oh boy, I'll be on YouTube, won't I?'"