Suburban Towing 2nd Street bridge Recovery

By: Justin Schaffer & Gina Johns

On March 1st, 2024, Suburban Towing was contacted by the Louisville Metro Police Department for a commercial vehicle accident that had occurred on the 2nd Street bridge spanning the Ohio River. The tractor-trailer involved was hanging off the bridge with the driver still in the truck cab. We were advised to send heavy-duty units. This route connects Louisville, Kentucky to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and is a popular route used by locals to avoid toll roads.

The traffic accident involved a single-ale tractor attached to a refrigerated box trailer with a combined gross weight of approximately 65,000 pounds. The collision with passenger vehicles resulted in the tractor-trailer unit breaching the side barriers of the bridge and stopping just before plunging into the Ohio River below. The trailer’s landing gear broke through the concrete sidewalk and the reefer trailer door header section struck the top of the bridge structure leaving the rear of the trailer elevated about 30 feet above the bridge deck. The truck driver was still strapped inside the truck cab.

Events leading to this accident caused a delay in starting the recovery. There were three passenger vehicles involved with injuries. After the rescue recovery by the Louisville Fire Department and the investigation of the accident scene (including the three vehicles), Suburban sent two rollbacks to recover the vehicles.


It was raining and 43 degrees in Louisville that day and working up on the bridge made it feel much cooler. Heavy operators Stanley Stanton, Jeff Edwards, I (Justin Schaffer), and Jim Knight, (scene safety supervisor)  were dispatched.

Once on scene, operations were underway to rescue the truck’s driver who remained strapped in the truck’s cab which was hanging from the fifth-wheel connection suspended over the Ohio River. An expertly trained member of the Louisville Fire Department repelled from the end of a ladder down to the truck cab to free the driver from the truck. The driver was placed in a safety harness and hoisted, with the firefighter up to the bridge deck and safety. Our hats off to the entire Louisville Fire Department for their heroic rescue of the truck driver from the unstable unit.

Waiting during the investigation process gave us time to make our “game plan” to recover the tractor-trailer. We estimated the weight of the cab and loaded refer unit to be 65,000 lbs. We employed our slingshot strategy using three Miller Industries heavy rescue rotators. We were able to lift the front of the trailer and truck and let the rear of the trailer down carefully. At the same time, we winched the trailer backward onto the bridge deck. The structure of the bridge itself created a huge obstacle to work around. Our operators performed this recovery process flawlessly, without causing any additional environmental issues or losing any parts of the truck or trailer. During the recovery, Suburban’s rotator operators communicated by using Sonetics headsets which proved to be a key element of a successful mission. The unit was prepared for towing and towed away from the scene.

Suburban Towing has been a familiar name in Louisville, Kentucky since it was started in 1969 by Irvin Johns. Irvin, along with his wife Gina, are still the owners and very much a part of the driving force of “day-to-day” operations. We are the largest towing company in the state of Kentucky with locations in southern Indiana as well as Texas. Our fleet consists of 90 pieces of equipment: 9 rotators, 15 heavy duties, multiple light-duties, and an extensive transport division. Including myself, Justin Schaffer, along with Stanley Stanton, Jeff Edwards, and Jim Knight, we have over 100 years of active experience invested in the towing and recovery industry.

Aerial Photo Credit: Rich G. Ammon