This paper presents a novel approach for structural damage detection. The cross-entropy method is used to estimate the structural parameters of a simply supported beam from its response to a static load consisting of a heavy vehicle. Various states of beam damage are modelled through local reductions in flexural rigidity. The proposed method estimates the distribution of stiffness throughout the beam using the deflections due to a heavy load located on the beam. Parameters such as initial distribution values, structural model, number of readings and sample size are varied to assess their influence on the prediction of the damage severity and its location.