Highway bridge collapses in Washington

A bridge collapse that sent cars and drivers plunging into the Skagit River in Washington State was caused by an over-sized truck that collided with the span of structure, authorities have said.

'For reasons unknown at this point in time the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse,' State Patrol Chief John Batiste revealed at an overnight news conference.

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

Three passengers were pulled alive from their vehicles after they plunged tens of feet into the water below at around 7pm on Thursday. Even more were pulled from the debris, but rescuers said no one died in the dramatic accident and all victims have been accounted for.

As the rescue operation remains underway, it was revealed that the bridge was previously recognized by state authorities as being 'functionally obsolete' as a result of certain structural changes that required attention.

The I-5 runs through the state, crossing the Skagit River at a number of different points, but the bridge where the collapse happened was between Burlington and Mount Vernon.

Both the north and southbound lanes of the bridge fell into the water, and as such both directions of the highway have been closed in the area.

There were early eyewitness reports that people watching were screaming that a man was stuck inside his truck that fell in the water during the collapse.

Jeremiah Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, said he was driving in the area when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.

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

At least two vehicles - a car and the pickup with a trailer attached - fell into the river, officials said.

Vehicles in the water, which is about 15 ft deep at the point of the incident, could be seen bobbing on the surface and were likely resting on collapsed portions of the bridge.

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', he said.

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

Sligh, who was dumped into the chilly waters with his wife and another man in a different vehicle, dislocated his shoulder in the plunge. He managed to pop it back in to place before calling out to his wife, who he described as being in shock.

The three victims 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.

Officials were quick to note that it would not be a massive accident, as highway trooper Mark Francis told local station King 5 News that because the bridge is in a relatively rural area, he does not expect mass casualties.

The bridge, which was built in 1955, 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.

Source : dailymail


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