Semi crashes through bridge railing (with video and photo gallery)

CORTEZ — A tractor-trailer collided with a Volkswagen driven by a Bradenton Beach man Tuesday morning at the top of the Cortez Bridge. The collision pushed the truck cab over the edge of the bridge.

No one was seriously injured, although the bridge was closed for more than two hours until it was reopened at about 1:40 p.m.

George Gonzales, 32, was driving his Cummings Food semi westbound to make a delivery to Publix on Anna Maria Island at 11:23 a.m. and crashed into an eastbound VW driven by Jonathan Quick, 43, of Bradenton Beach.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, Gonzales, of Brandon, was headed west on the Cortez Bridge in his 2005 Volvo tractor-trailer when he veered left and crossed the center line.

The truck hit the 2009 Volkswagen that Quick was driving east over the bridge, heading to Venice to go kite surfing.

Gonzales’ truck then broke through the concrete guard rail of the bridge and the cab hung precariously over the water.

He had to crawl out of the passenger-side door to escape the cab.

There were no passengers in either vehicle.

Quick suffered some soft tissue injuries and shoulder and chest soreness, but neither driver required transport by Manatee County Emergency Medical Services, according to a press release from the Manatee County Public Safety Department.

When paramedics asked Gonzales what happened he said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know what happened, I was driving on the bridge and the next thing I saw was the sky and water.”

Gonzales works for Cummings Foods in Dover.

There were no skid marks on the roadway, according to the FHP report.

Capt. Larry Leinhauser, spokesman for the Manatee County Public Safety Department, said Quick’s car inadvertently saved Gonzales’ life by blocking the truck from going over the side.

Quick told Leinhauser he was happy to be alive.

He said, “All I saw was a big truck coming right at me, and I had nowhere to go,” according to Leinhauser.

The accident closed the bridge in both directions and people were advised to use the Manatee Avenue bridge.

“We had a lot of people making U-turns,” said Roger Allen, director of the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, 4415 119th St. W. “Traffic was backed up about two miles when the accident first happened.”

But law enforcement soon had traffic under control and began diverting traffic to the island north on 75th Street West off Cortez Road, said Sue Gallman, a sales associate at the Sea Hagg antique and nautical shop, 12304 Cortez Road.

“It finally cleared up,” Gallman said, “We didn’t have too much traffic in front of our store.”