The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Breaking News

May 24, 2013

I-5 bridge collapse caused by truck hitting span

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The Interstate 5 bridge collapse into the Skagit River was caused by an oversize truck hitting the span, the Washington State Patrol chief said.

"For reasons unknown at this point in time the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse," Batiste told an overnight news conference.

The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.

Two other vehicles went into the water Thursday evening as the structure crumbled. Three people were rescued and are recovering.

Drivers should expect delays at the break in the major north-south highway about 60 miles north of Seattle. Detours have been set up to try to ease the congestion.

Batiste urged drivers to avoid the area if possible, especially over the Memorial Day weekend.

Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup truck on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."

"I hit the brakes and we went off," Sligh told reporters from a hospital, adding he "saw the water approaching ... you hold on as tight as you can."

Sligh, his wife and another man in a different vehicle were dumped into the chilly waters of the Skagit River. They were injured, but miraculously, authorities said it appeared nobody was killed in the bridge failure that raised the question about the safety of aging spans and cut off the main route between Seattle and Canada.

"We don't think anyone else went into the water," said Marcus Deyerin, a spokesman for the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team. "At this point we're optimistic."

Sligh and his wife were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other man was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said.

Sligh said his shoulder was dislocated in the drop into the water, and he found himself "belly deep in water in the truck." He said he popped his shoulder back in and called out to his wife, who he described as being in shock initially as they waited for rescuers to arrive in boats.

Traffic along the heavily travelled route could be affected for some time.

"The I-5 corridor is totally disrupted," said Gov. Jay Inslee, who went to the scene Thursday night.

"Thanks to the rescuers and a little bit of luck, we had three Skagitonians who made it out of the Skagit River alive," Inslee said.

The bridge was inspected twice last year and repairs were made, Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said.

"It's an older bridge that needs a lot of work just like a good number of bridges around the state," she said.

Transportation officials are working on plans for either a temporary or permanent replacement, she said.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigative team.

Trooper Francis said the portion of the four-lane bridge over the Skagit River collapsed about 7 p.m. Thursday.

Jeremiah Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, said he was driving nearby when he glimpsed something out of the corner of his eye and turned to look.

"The bridge just went down, it crashed through the water," he said. "It was really surreal."

The bridge was about 50 feet above the water. Deyerin said it appeared that two vehicles — a car and the pickup with the travel trailer attached — fell into the river. He said the water depth was about 15 feet, and the vehicles half-visible in the water likely were resting on portions of the collapsed bridge.

Crowds of people lined the river to watch the scene unfold.

"It's not something you see every day," said Jimmy O'Connor, the owner of two local pizza restaurants who was driving on another bridge parallel to the one that collapsed. "People were starting to crawl out of their cars."

He said he and his girlfriend were about 400 yards away on the Burlington Bridge when they heard "just a loud bang."

"Then we looked over and saw the bridge was down in the water," he said.

He pulled over and saw three vehicles in the water, including the camping trailer that landed upside-down, he said.

The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database listed it as being "functionally obsolete" — a category meaning that the design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath.

The bridge was built in 1955 and has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100, according to federal records. That is well below the statewide average rating of 80, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, but 759 bridges in the state have a lower sufficiency score.

According to a 2012 Skagit County Public Works Department report, 42 of the county's 108 bridges are 50 years or older. The document says eight of the bridges are more than 70 years old and two are over 80.

Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state's bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Democratic Rep. Judy Clibborn, who leads the transportation committee in the state House, said the bridge wasn't one that has been a focus for lawmakers.

"It is shocking that I-5 would have something happen like this," she said.

Clibborn said the collapse will call attention to the issues facing bridges — especially the old bridge over the Columbia River that connects Vancouver and Portland, Ore.

Sligh said his wife was "doing OK" and that he had "lots of cuts."

"You're kind of pinching yourself and realize you're lucky to be alive."

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • news_skoreaferry.jpg Fears rise for missing in South Korea ferry sinking

    Fears rose Thursday for the fate of 289 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ukraineprotests.jpg Pro-Russian gunmen make inroads in eastern Ukraine

    The well-armed, Moscow-backed insurgency sowing chaos in eastern Ukraine scored a new victory Wednesday, seizing armored vehicles and weapons from underequipped government forces, then rolling through two cities to a hero’s welcome.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_detroitsunset.jpg Detroit still needs $350M from state lawmakers

    Pressure was building Wednesday for Michigan lawmakers to commit $350 million to Detroit pensions, a day after the city reached tentative agreements with pension funds and a retiree group to reduce payouts.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0417 - Sperry Funeral - 10.jpg Family, friends bid farewell to Jesse Sperry

    The fussing of 10-day-old Autumn Marie Sperry seemed to coincide with the beginning of the funeral service for her father, Jesse Sperry, whose body rested just a few feet away. More than 200 friends and family members gathered at Edgewood Baptist Church this afternoon to pay their respects to Jesse, who was killed April 6 in a traffic accident on Indiana 32.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • news_malaysiaplanesearch.jpg Sub makes second dive to search for Malaysian plane

    As a robotic submarine dived into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3 APTOPIX Police Conver_Unde-1.jpg Feds: Boston bombing suspect not entitled to '11 murder file

    Federal prosecutors have told a judge they have no evidence that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev knew about his brother's alleged role in a triple slaying in Waltham two years before the bombings.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine

    Authorities say a toddler has been reunited with his mother after employees found him playing inside a claw crane machine at a Nebraska bowling alley.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boston police safely blow up suspicious backpacks

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city's resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • 292 missing, 4 dead in South Korea ferry disaster

    A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

    April 16, 2014

  • Leaders await decision on Indiana Plan expansion

    Two of the state's top Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they would like to see the federal government sign off on an expansion of Medicaid through the state's health care plan for low-income residents, but they added that they have little idea how soon that could happen.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

How often would you ride an express bus to Indianapolis?

Every work day
Once or twice a week
Occasionally
I'll stick to driving my car, thank you
     View Results