'Horrified' trucker describes I-5 bridge collapse in Washington - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

'Horrified' trucker describes I-5 bridge collapse in Washington

Posted: Updated:
Rescue workers form a human chain as they begin to remove a woman who reaches out from a smashed pickup truck that fell into the Skagit River after the collapse of the I-5 bridge Thursday in Mt. Vernon, Wash. (AP Photo/Francisco Rodriguez) Rescue workers form a human chain as they begin to remove a woman who reaches out from a smashed pickup truck that fell into the Skagit River after the collapse of the I-5 bridge Thursday in Mt. Vernon, Wash. (AP Photo/Francisco Rodriguez)

By MANUEL VALDES and MIKE BAKER

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — A truck hauling an oversized load of drilling equipment hit an overhead bridge girder on the major route between Seattle and Canada, sending a section of the interstate into the river below as the driver watched the structure collapse in his rearview mirror.

Two other vehicles plunged into the Skagit River, but all three occupants escaped with only minor injuries.

"He looked in the mirrors and it just dropped out of sight," Cynthia Scott, the wife of truck driver William Scott, said Friday from the couple's home near Spruce Grove, Alberta, just west of Edmonton. "I spoke to him seconds after it happened. He was just horrified."

The spectacular scene unfolded about 7 p.m. Thursday on the north section of the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle and 40 miles south of the Canada border, and disrupted travel in both directions. Officials warned it could be weeks before things returned to normal along the heavily travelled corridor.

The Washington State Patrol said the truck driver works for Mullen Trucking in Alberta. The tractor-trailer was hauling a housing for drilling equipment southbound when the top right front corner of the load struck several trusses on the north end of the bridge, the patrol said.

Scott voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test and was not arrested. A top company official said the driver was amazed by what he saw happen.

"He's a little bit bewildered," Ed Scherbinski, vice president of Mullen Trucking, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Initially, it wasn't clear if the bridge just gave way on its own. But at an overnight news conference, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed it on the too-tall load. The vertical clearance from the roadway to the beam is 14.6 feet.

The truck made it off the bridge and Scott remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators. Two other vehicles went into the water about 25 feet below as the structure crumbled. Three people were rescued and were recovering Friday.

The trucking company said it received a state permit to carry its oversized load across the bridge. Scherbinski said the state Department of Transportation had approved of the company's plan to drive the equipment along I-5 to Vancouver, Wash.

He also said the company hired a local escort to help navigate the route. The driver was well-experienced with handling oversized loads, he said.

"This is what we do for a living. We pride ourselves in doing things the proper way," Scherbinski said.

Mike Allende, a state DOT spokesman, confirmed the truck had its permit.

"We're still trying to figure out why it hit the bridge," he said. "It's ultimately up to the trucking company to figure out whether it can get through. It's their responsibility to make sure the load they have can travel on that route."

Dave Chesson, a state DOT spokesman, said there were no signs leading up to the bridge warning about its clearance height.

Gov. Jay Inslee — who issued an emergency proclamation for surrounding Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties — said it will cost $15 million to repair the bridge. The federal government has already promised the state $1 million in emergency funding.

Inslee talked to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday morning. LaHood is promising his full support to get Washington's main north-south roadway repaired as quickly as possible. National Transportation Safety Board officials planned to join state authorities at a Monday afternoon news briefing.

Traffic could be affected for some time. The bridge is used by an average of 71,000 vehicles a day, so the roadblock will cause a major disruption in trade and tourism between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Washington Transportation Department has set up detours. The closest bridge nearby is mostly used for local traffic between Mount Vernon and Burlington. The department also is recommending detours using state Routes 20 and 9 that add tens of miles to a trip. Drivers are urged to avoid the area if possible, especially over the Memorial Day weekend.

Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup on I-5 heading to a camping trip when he said the 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 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.

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.

The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database lists 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 1,112 feet long and 180 feet wide, with two lanes in each direction, state DOT spokesman Noel Brady said. There are four spans, or sections, over the water supported by piers. The span on the north side is the one that collapsed. It's a steel truss bridge, meaning it has a boxy steel frame.

The mishap was reminiscent of the August 2007 collapse of an I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured another 145 when it buckled and fell into the Mississippi River during rush-hour.

Sligh was thankful.

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

___

Baker reported from Olympia, Wash. Associated Press writers Donna Gordon Blankinship and Gene Johnson in Seattle, and Terry Tang in Phoenix also contributed to this report.

  • Central Alabama NewsMore>>

  • Deputy Arrested For Synthetic Marijuana

    Deputy Arrested For Synthetic Marijuana

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:57 AM EDT2014-04-24 11:57:01 GMT
    A Russell County Sheriff's deputy is accused of participating in a drug trafficking operation.The man was arrested Wednesday after police found 1.5 pounds of synthetic marijuana, or spice, in his Lee County apartment. The deputy has been with the sheriff's department for about two months where he worked in the traffic division. He previously worked as a police officer in Phenix City, Ala.It's unclear if charges have officially been filed in the case. A call to the sheriff's office wasn't imme...More >>
    A Russell County Sheriff's deputy is accused of participating in a drug trafficking operation.The man was arrested Wednesday after police found 1.5 pounds of synthetic marijuana, or spice, in his Lee County apartment. The deputy has been with the sheriff's department for about two months where he worked in the traffic division. He previously worked as a police officer in Phenix City, Ala.It's unclear if charges have officially been filed in the case. A call to the sheriff's office wasn't imme...More >>
  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:52:00 GMT
    The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
  • More guilty pleas expected in multi-state dog fighting probe

    More guilty pleas expected in multi-state dog fighting probe

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:08 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:08:05 GMT
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Seven of the 14 people arrested in a multi-state dog fighting investigation have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty. Jennifer McDonald of Fairburn, Ga.; Michael Martin of Auburn, Ala.; and Ricky Van Le of Biloxi, Miss., are the latest to file papers in federal court in Montgomery. Four others previously sent paperwork saying that they want to change their pleas to guilty. They are Lawrence Watford of Adel, Ga.; William Oneil Edwards of Elba, Ala.; DeMo...More >>
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Seven of the 14 people arrested in a multi-state dog fighting investigation have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty. Jennifer McDonald of Fairburn, Ga.; Michael Martin of Auburn, Ala.; and Ricky Van Le of Biloxi, Miss., are the latest to file papers in federal court in Montgomery. Four others previously sent paperwork saying that they want to change their pleas to guilty. They are Lawrence Watford of Adel, Ga.; William Oneil Edwards of Elba, Ala.; DeMo...More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Gadsden man found with over 600 pornographic images and videos, arrested on child porn charges

    Gadsden man found with over 600 pornographic images and videos, arrested on child porn charges

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:11 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:11:36 GMT
    Pablo Gabriel UrbinaPablo Gabriel Urbina
    A Gadsden man was arrested Tuesday on child pornography charges following an extensive investigation by several law enforcement agencies, the Etowah County Sheriff's Office said.More >>
    A Gadsden man was arrested Tuesday on child pornography charges following an extensive investigation by several law enforcement agencies, the Etowah County Sheriff's Office said.More >>
  • Search for Riverside man in Logan Martin Lake enters day 3

    Search for Riverside man in Logan Martin Lake enters day 3

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:31 AM EDT2014-04-23 15:31:06 GMT
    Various law enforcement agencies are assisting in the search for a Riverside man who went missing in Logan Martin Lake. (abc3340.com)Various law enforcement agencies are assisting in the search for a Riverside man who went missing in Logan Martin Lake. (abc3340.com)
    The search continues for a Riverside man who fell from a fishing boat in Logan Martin Lake on Sunday.More >>
    The search continues for a Riverside man who fell from a fishing boat in Logan Martin Lake on Sunday.
    More >>
  • Officer-involved shooting in Anniston leaves 53-year-old man dead

    Officer-involved shooting in Anniston leaves 53-year-old man dead

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:24 PM EDT2014-04-22 23:24:15 GMT
    ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) - Calhoun County officials say Anniston police fatally shot a man who was accused of pointing a gun at them. According to County Coroner Shane Adrian, 53-year-old Frank Charles Johnston was pronounced dead after being shot outside his house in the Blue Mountain area Tuesday morning. Adrian says neighbors told investigators that Johnston was standing in the street with a gun and that he pointed the weapon at responding officers. Adrian says Johnston's body is being taken to...More >>
    ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) - Calhoun County officials say Anniston police fatally shot a man who was accused of pointing a gun at them. According to County Coroner Shane Adrian, 53-year-old Frank Charles Johnston was pronounced dead after being shot outside his house in the Blue Mountain area Tuesday morning. Adrian says neighbors told investigators that Johnston was standing in the street with a gun and that he pointed the weapon at responding officers. Adrian says Johnston's body is being taken to...More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Deputy Arrested For Synthetic Marijuana

    Deputy Arrested For Synthetic Marijuana

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:57 AM EDT2014-04-24 11:57:01 GMT
    A Russell County Sheriff's deputy is accused of participating in a drug trafficking operation.The man was arrested Wednesday after police found 1.5 pounds of synthetic marijuana, or spice, in his Lee County apartment. The deputy has been with the sheriff's department for about two months where he worked in the traffic division. He previously worked as a police officer in Phenix City, Ala.It's unclear if charges have officially been filed in the case. A call to the sheriff's office wasn't imme...More >>
    A Russell County Sheriff's deputy is accused of participating in a drug trafficking operation.The man was arrested Wednesday after police found 1.5 pounds of synthetic marijuana, or spice, in his Lee County apartment. The deputy has been with the sheriff's department for about two months where he worked in the traffic division. He previously worked as a police officer in Phenix City, Ala.It's unclear if charges have officially been filed in the case. A call to the sheriff's office wasn't imme...More >>
  • Officer involved in shooting in Birmingham

    Officer involved in shooting in Birmingham

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:47 AM EDT2014-04-24 11:47:41 GMT
    Investigators are on the scene of a police involved shooting in Birmingham that stemmed from a robbery.More >>
    Investigators are on the scene of a police involved shooting in Birmingham that stemmed from a robbery.More >>
  • TechBits: portable power (04.23.14)

    TechBits: portable power (04.23.14)

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 10:41 PM EDT2014-04-24 02:41:00 GMT
    There are many options for getting extra power to your portable devices- and they go beyond just batteries..The EnerPlex Surfr series phone cases have solar panels built in. They generate power from the sun, and store it in an internal battery you use to power up your phone. They make the phone a little big and bulky- but they can be invaluable to hikers or campers.Dane-Elec provides power and data with the Mobile Junkie Media Streamer. The unit has a built-in battery beefy enough to complete...More >>
    There are many options for getting extra power to your portable devices- and they go beyond just batteries..The EnerPlex Surfr series phone cases have solar panels built in. They generate power from the sun, and store it in an internal battery you use to power up your phone. They make the phone a little big and bulky- but they can be invaluable to hikers or campers.Dane-Elec provides power and data with the Mobile Junkie Media Streamer. The unit has a built-in battery beefy enough to complete...More >>
  • Birmingham Mayor issues takeover agreement amid lawsuit over precinct construction

    Birmingham Mayor issues takeover agreement amid lawsuit over precinct construction

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 10:32 PM EDT2014-04-24 02:32:26 GMT
    Birmingham Mayor William Bell addressed police officers Wednesday at the city's West Precinct following years of delay to construction of a new site.ABC 33/40 has learned some people say parts of the building is in dire need of upgrades. A few years ago, the city approved a plan for new construction. Since then, it has been delayed. A contractor for the project, Chris Woods, has also filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming city leaders stalled progress.Bell did not speak directly to that l...More >>
    Birmingham Mayor William Bell addressed police officers Wednesday at the city's West Precinct following years of delay to construction of a new site.ABC 33/40 has learned some people say parts of the building is in dire need of upgrades. A few years ago, the city approved a plan for new construction. Since then, it has been delayed. A contractor for the project, Chris Woods, has also filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming city leaders stalled progress.Bell did not speak directly to that l...More >>
  • Burned body found in Fairfield identified as 22-year-old Pinson woman

    Burned body found in Fairfield identified as 22-year-old Pinson woman

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:52:02 GMT
     The body of 22-year-old Megan Elizabeth Monroe, of Pinson, was found outside this home in Fairfield, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (abc3340.com) The body of 22-year-old Megan Elizabeth Monroe, of Pinson, was found outside this home in Fairfield, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (abc3340.com)
    Police have identified the burned body found last weekend behind a vacant home in Fairfield as a 22-year-old Pinson woman.More >>
    Police have identified the burned body found last weekend behind a vacant home in Fairfield as a 22-year-old Pinson woman.More >>
  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Make donation, take aerial tour of Huntsville with NASA Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:52:00 GMT
    The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.The U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama is asking for your help to raise $70,000 to begin installation of a Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Shuttle Park.
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
    For a generous donation, one can take flight with a veteran NASA astronaut in a shuttle training aircraft and get a birds-eye view of Huntsville, including a rare view of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center campus, organizers announced Wednesday.More >>
  • NWS Birmingham to replace tower by May 3

    NWS Birmingham to replace tower by May 3

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:45 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:45:18 GMT
    The National Weather Service Birmingham office is offering weather-related alternatives after a recent transmitter outage. The service's tower, which sits atop Red Mountain, failed over the weekend. NWSMore >>
    UpdateMore >>
  • Amber Alert issued for 2-year-old girl from Mississippi

    Amber Alert issued for 2-year-old girl from Mississippi

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:16 PM EDT2014-04-24 00:16:07 GMT
    THE MISSISSIPPI HIGHWAY PATROL HAS ISSUED AN AMBER ALERT FOR 2-YEAR-OLD MALIAH HARRIS, WHO WAS ABDUCTED THIS MORNING FROM CALEDONIA, MISSISSIPPI.More >>
    The Mississippi Highway Patrol has issued an amber alert for 2-year-old Maliah Harris, who was allegedly abducted Wednesday morning from Caledonia, Mississippi. More >>