Public Safety

Vehicle in fatal I-380 crash may have ramped off piled snow to railroad tracks below

A vehicle lies on its roof along Fourth Street SE under Interstate 380 in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 4, 2019. (Cliff Jette /The Gazette)
A vehicle lies on its roof along Fourth Street SE under Interstate 380 in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 4, 2019. (Cliff Jette /The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A vehicle that flipped off the Interstate 380 S-curve bridge in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday leading to the death of a 59-year-old man appears to have ramped off snow piled on the shoulder to the railroad tracks below near Fourth Street and A Avenue NE, a public safety official said on Tuesday morning.

Authorities are also considering a medical condition as a possible cause of the crash, said Greg Buelow, spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Police Department. They won’t know for sure until additional tests are complete, he said.

“Accident reconstruction specialists are awaiting results of the autopsy and toxicology reports,” Buelow said. “Therefore, there still is an active investigation.”

The driver has been identified as Bradley Dean Tolsma, 59, of Marion.

At 4:11 p.m., Monday, police officers and firefighters were called to the crash on A Avenue near Fourth Street NE. The driver was heading north on I-380 when he lost control of the vehicle and went over the guardrail on the S-curve. The vehicle landed on its roof, crushing the cabin.

The driver was found dead when emergency crews arrived at the crash.

In 2009, a semi hauling appliances broke through a guardrail on I-380 above Third Street NW and the cab and several appliances fell to the ground below the interstate. The driver of the vehicle died in the crash.

Investigators will not have the aid of footage from Iowa Department of Transportation camera, which were facing the other direction — north — at the time of the crash and did not capture it, according to Buelow and Iowa DOT officials.

This section of I-380 sees upward of 75,000 vehicles per day, according to data from the Iowa DOT.

An Iowa DOT district 6 maintenance supervisor reported having conducted snow blowing operations twice this year to clear the shoulders, but conditions have been a challenge, said Cathy Cutler, an Iowa DOT spokeswoman for the district.

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“The walls were not over full and with the rain we had and cold temps it is hard to blow the frozen snow,” she said in an email.

The DOT uses the same vehicles for dump trucks and plows, so they typically hire out the snow clearing operations to avoid dismantling the plows. This involves a tractor hauling a giant snowblower that feeds into the bin of a trailing dump truck. They typically try to clear excess snow in between storms. This operation last occurred on Feb 13 and 14.

• Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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