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New Jersey footbridge collapses during snow clearing; 2 hurt

Two men were seriously injured when a footbridge gave way in Hawthorne, New Jersey, and caused a small snow-clearing vehicle to fall on a van.

A Hawthorne employee was driving the vehicle along the footbridge when a section of it collapsed. The vehicle, which weighed about 4,000 pounds, fell onto Route 208 below.

Seriously injured were the 42-year-old driver of the snow-clearing vehicle and a 22-year-old passenger in the van. The van's driver, a 64-year-old Hawthorne man, also suffered injuries but was released from the hospital soon after.

A state Department of Transportation (DOT) official said that the footbridge didn't have a posted weight limit and wasn't built to accommodate vehicles. An investigation is ongoing. The bridge was closed following a review by engineers.

Which government agency is responsible for the care of the footbridge is under dispute. The DOT official said the state owns the bridge, but Passaic County is in charge of maintaining it. The county administrator said that information is wrong.

The official said, "The DOT is mistaken." He noted that "there is no jurisdictional agreement for us to maintain the bridge and even if there was it would not be for structural integrity only for snow removal, and snow removal was being done by the Borough of Hawthorne." Officials in Hawthorne would not offer much detail.

"The Borough of Hawthorne is still gathering information regarding the accident, and will await the issuance of reports by the Hawthorne Police Department, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and other entities investigating the accident before commenting further on this matter," the borough administrator said.

Even though public officials are passing the responsibility among entities, one or all of them share the duty of covering the cost of any medical care, rehabilitation and loss of wages these men will incur. A personal injury attorney can help them sort through the case.

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