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Appleton Man Survives Concrete Chunks Falling From US 41 Overpass

An Appleton man is still in shock after a chunk of concrete fell from a U.S.41 overpass and through his car's front windshield.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - An Appleton man is still in shock after a chunk of concrete fell from a U.S.41 overpass and through his car's front windshield. It happened Tuesday in Winnebago County and closed the highway for hours.

Kirk Gobel was driving home from work on northbound US 41 Tuesday afternoon. At the US 10 overpass, his front windshield exploded on the passenger side.

"Something slammed into my car, pushed me into the other lane, didn't quite know what happened," said Gobel. "Pulled over to the side of the road, turned my flashers on and looked down and saw concrete lying on my seat and on the floor."

Looking at these pictures Gobel took after the incident it's easy to understand why he remains shaken.  This hunk of concrete was 5 inches round and 18 inches in length. While it landed on the passenger seat, Gobel knows it could have fallen on him.

"Two more feet - I don't think I'd be here to talk about it."

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says two other vehicles were hit by falling concrete. Spokesperson Kim Rudat says it's a rare occurrence, but it happens.

 "The surface concrete - due to weather and time and the vibration from traffic on top - the underside of the bridge starts to do what we call spall," said Rudat. "And in this case some chunks let loose and fell on some cars."

 To prevent more debris from falling Rudat says the section of bridge over northbound US 41 lanes was wrapped in mesh. It's something that was done to the section crossing southbound US 41 last year. 

 "When we did the southbound lanes, northbound looked pretty good, thought we didn't need to," Rudat said. "Turns out we did."

 Rudat says the bridge remains sound and the situation for drivers is again safe.  However, try telling that to Kirk Gobel.

 "Crazy that something that big could fall off a bridge and fall through the window of a car traveling underneath it," said Gobel.

 Who says he'll never drive this way again.

 "I don't understand how this could happen."

 The DOT says bridges are inspected every two years. The US 10 overpass is scheduled to be replaced in 2016 as part of an upgrade for the highway US 41/ US 10 /WIS 441 interchange.

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