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Bridge crash drownings are ruled accidental

FORT WAYNE -- The deaths of a man and woman who drowned last month after the pickup truck that was carrying them across the Tecumseh Street bridge crashed through a limestone railing and plunged into the Maumee River has been ruled accidental.

Divers pulled two people from the cab of the truck Nov. 7 and brought them to shore, where they were pronounced dead. The deceased were identified as Mark Wayne Staulters, 53, and Tamee Ann Staulters, 44, both city residents, according to the Allen County Coroner's Office. The two were divorced in 2011, court records show.

A morning commuter going over the bridge, which links the Lakeside and East Central neighborhoods, noticed that part of the railing was missing from a point on the bridge deck that's 25 to 30 feet above the water. The white Dodge truck was found underwater, upside down, city fire officials said for an earlier story.

The pickup broke through the west railing and plummeted off the south half of the 113-year-old bridge – right next to the spot where another vehicle busted through the railing in July.

In that fatal crash, the driver, 23-year-old Irvin Gates, lost control of a vehicle as he went north across the bridge. It landed in the river, and rescuers soon pulled him from the water. His death was also ruled an accidental drowning.

The cause of the November crash is not known.

The railings were replaced in 2010, and before going in the water, a vehicle must first jump an 8-inch curb, cross a sidewalk and plow through the railing.

The truck belonged to Shawnee Construction & Engineering, a local firm that employed Mark Staulters for more than 20 years.