I–40 victims’ memorial to be dedicated

Memorial Day weekend has taken on an additional meaning for some Americans. Not only is the day dedicated to those who gave their lives for the county, but now it is also a day to remember those who died in the I–40 barge incident in Webbers Falls. Fourteen victims lost in the murky water of the Arkansas River May 26, 2002 will be commemorated this Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2003 at 10 a.m. at the Webbers Falls City Park.

A memorial structure erected in their honor will be the center of ceremonies as family members and supporters remember their loved ones. The dedication, hosted by Webbers Falls Mayor Jewell Horne, is part of a program also recognizing the efforts of responders and others involved in the bridge collision and its aftermath. The Federal Highway Administration, ODOT and the Town of Webbers Falls will be dedicating the memorial to the victims Monday.

The incident, which affected families nationwide, occurred at the I–40 bridge near Webbers Falls when a barge traveling upstream rammed the bridge’s piers knocking down more than 500 feet of the four–lane structure.

Oklahoma artist Shahla Rahimi–Reynolds designed the bronze and granite memorial which stands along the bank of the river where the temporary memorial once stood. The design depicts a clock frozen at the time of the accident and a pedestal supporting a child releasing a dove to the heavens. Five pillars were erected representing the survivors. White Engineering Associates completed the site design and Magnum Construction, Inc. built the structure which is located upstream from the bridge.

Congressional representatives, local transportation officials and civic leaders will attend the ceremony to pay their respects to the families and commend those involved in the recovery efforts.

The memorial was funded in part through federal transportation enhancement money made available for projects such as this. The federal funds, amounting to $120,000, were approved by ODOT in September 2002 and were combined with $30,000 from the Town of Webbers Falls to make the memorial a reality.

This funding mechanism allows all levels of government the opportunity to work together to plan and develop projects for the community. The Federal Transportation Enhancement Program offers extensive opportunities to take unique and creative actions to integrate such projects into communities and the natural environment.

ODOT PR# 03–032 May 22, 2003