DENVER - It’s a trip to IKEA that Deb Hulting will never forget.
The Loveland woman was driving southbound on Interstate 25 just after 11 a.m. Monday when she suddenly saw debris falling from the Speer Boulevard bridge.
“I thought it was snow,” Hulting told 7NEWS, “big chunks of snow.”
Then Hulting saw the car in front of her, a blue Scion, veer off into the concrete median.
The next thing she knew, her car, a Hyundai SUV, had a flat tire.
Investigators say the debris that fell from the bridge wasn’t snow, it was concrete.
“A semi truck was southbound in the far left lane when part of the load hit the bridge,” said Sonny Jackson of the Denver Police Department.
The impact loosened concrete and rebar from the bridge and sent it crashing to the concrete below.
Some of it fell onto adjacent cars.
Hulting said there was a man, a woman and two children in the car in front of her.
“The driver was hurt pretty bad,” she said. “The male passenger told me he grabbed the emergency brake and the steering wheel to bring the car to a stop after the driver was injured.”
“She suffered serious head injuries,” Jackson said.
“There were two kids in the car,” Hulting said. “I told them they could sit in my car to keep warm.”
Hulting said she couldn’t believe it when she saw how badly injured the other driver was.
"I was shaking so hard I could barely dial to call my husband or to call 911," she said. "It was very frightening. If I had been behind that truck, the concrete would have come through my windshield. And I had my mom with me."
Police shut down southbound I-25 for four hours to investigate the accident and to remove the wreckage.
Then engineers from the Colorado Department of Transportation began to assess damage to the bridge.
"We closed one lane on Speer," said CDOT spokeswoman Mindy Crane. "We wouldn't open I-25 or any highway until we were certain that no more concrete would fall onto the traffic lanes below."
Crane noted that the clearance for the Speer Boulevard bridge is 13 feet, 0 inches.
"We have signage a few miles back that says all commercial traffic needs to be in the center lanes." Crane said. "If the truck had been in the center lane, it likely would have cleared the bridge."
Police haven't released the names of any of the drivers, but Jackson told 7NEWS that they cited the truck driver with careless driving resulting in serious bodily injury.
The truck is owned by RMS Cranes in Denver.
CDOT said this isn't the first time a bridge has been hit.
"In the last four months or so, there have been four bridges hit in the metro area," Crane said. "We really need folks to follow signage and know their height loads."
Hulting called the experience frightening.
"It was emotionally draining," she said. "After the accident we turned around and went back home. We didn’t make it to IKEA."