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Bridge Traffic Barred After Washout, Fatal Crash

Man Dies After His Vehicle Enters Mississippi River On Washed Out Area Of Roadway

Photo courtesy of Crawford County Sheriff’s Office

The Black Hawk Bridge crossing the Mississippi River between Lansing, Iowa, and southwestern Wisconsin is closed after high water levels washed out part of the highway and led to a fatal accident.

Authorities say James Walleser, 59, of Lansing, Iowa, was eastbound on Iowa Highway 82 around 4:20 a.m. Tuesday on his way to work. As Walleser exited the bridge span, his vehicle entered an area of the roadway that had washed out, causing his vehicle to fall into the river, according to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.

Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick said another driver witnessed the washout and the accident, and alerted authorities.

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“We don’t know exactly how the road was when the victim drove across it,” McCullick said. “(The eyewitness) saw brake lights and then they saw something kind of weird with them, so that individual was able to slow down and stop before he himself went into a hole. He saw the vehicle was still on the roadway but he could tell that it was going into the river.”

McCullick said it’s unusual to see such an abrupt road collapse. “We do have our share of a lot of rain, but I haven’t come across anything like this,” McCullick said.

Walleser was found in the vehicle around 8:30 a.m. and pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was set to be performed Tuesday in Madison, according to a sheriff’s office press release.

Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock said around 75 feet of the highway’s eastbound lane fell into the river after the embankment was compromised by flooding.

“When the water’s high it comes through these small bridges on the dike and creates a lot of velocity, and actually there was a 60 feet deep hole on the lower side of the bridge,” Pelock said.

Pelock said it will take two to three days to repair the roadway.

Motorists who want to cross can go north to La Crescent, Minnesota, opposite La Crosse, or south to Marquette, Iowa, opposite Prairie du Chien.