An historic covered bridge nearly collapsed into a New Brunswick river this week after an out-of-control car smashed into it, leaving much of the structure in tatters.

"The driver lost control just prior to entering the (Maxwell Crossing) bridge, collided with the one side of the bridge, which you can see is missing now,” says Sgt. Bob MacKnight of the St. Stephen RCMP.

Three people were in the vehicle at the time but they weren’t seriously injured in the crash.

The same cannot be said for the Maxwell Crossing Bridge, however, which sustained serious damage to one side.

Engineers are now assessing the damage and area residents are wondering about the future of the covered bridge.

“I work around the corner here and I see people here from all over Canada and that’s what they do,” says Randy Bartlett. “They drive around New Brunswick looking for covered bridges.”

The number of covered bridges in the province has been dwindling for decades. As a general rule, the bridges are not rebuilt or replaced after they have been heavily damaged.

There are about 60 covered bridges left in New Brunswick, which is down from about 300 in the 1960s.

“It’s definitely repairable,” says Ernest Hatt, a retired employee of the Department of Transportation, who surveyed the damage to bridge.

“The only thing that would have really upset it, if you broke the A-frames underneath these corner posts, then the roof would have collapsed.”

A spokesperson for the department says the future of the bridge will depend on the outcome of the engineers’ assessments and evaluation of costs.

The department would not comment on how long the crossing will be out of service.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron