I-5 Bridge Collapse: Update

May 24, 2013

By first light this morning, investigators were sorting through twisted steel girders and interviewing drivers to piece together exactly what brought down the Interstate-5 Skagit River Bridge in Mount Vernon. More now from Northwest Public Radio’s Lucrezia Cuen.

It was shortly before seven last night when, as one motorist put it, the bridge disappeared “in a big puff of dust.” Dan Sligh hit the breaks but it was too late: he and his wife and another driver dropped with the bridge 50 feet into the water below. They are recovering this morning at local hospitals. Surprisingly, there were apparently no other injuries and no fatalities.

The highway patrol says it now believes that one section of the four-lane interstate span collapsed when an over-sized truck struck bridge girders. The truck made it off the bridge and authorities were interviewing the driver.

The 58-year-old bridge had been inspected last fall. And while it was not considered structurally deficient it was listed as “functionally obsolete”. That means its design of narrow shoulders and low clearance is considered outdated.

Police have set up detours through the busy area but are encouraging motorists to avoid that stretch of I-5 if they possibly can. Officials would not even guess when the link might be rebuilt. As Governor Jay Inslee, who visited the scene late last night, put it: “The I-5 corridor is totally disrupted.”

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio