Three pulled from water after Washington state bridge collapse

Posted at 8:22 AM, May 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-24 08:22:17-04

Dan Sligh called out to his wife, who had been sitting on the passenger seat beside him. No answer.

When a section of a bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State collapsed Thursday evening, plummeting into the current dozens of feet below, it took the couple with it. As they pounded onto the river’s surface, the impact dislocated Sligh’s shoulder.

He popped it back in, groped around the cab of his truck to find his wife and unbuckled her, as the water rose on the passenger side. Then he dragged her out of the truck to safety.

“Rough day,” Sligh told CNN affiliate KIRO. “Glad to be here breathing.”

What made the section of the 1950s bridge give way is under investigation, but a traffic mishap may have at least weakened the structure, according to police.

“An 18-wheeler commercial motor vehicle with a very large container appears to have struck part of the bridge at some point,” said Washington State Trooper Mark Francis. He was not sure of the accident occurred before or while the bridge collapsed.

Sligh thinks there was an accident and that it did trigger the collapse. He was right behind a big rig, when it hit the bridge, he said.

He and his wife had been heading south on Interstate 5, looking forward to a Memorial Day weekend camping trip. They were pulling a trailer behind them.

Not far from the bridge over the Skagit River, they were trailing the semi, he said.

Its wide load looked about four feet too wide for it to clear the side of the truss bridge it was traveling on, he told KIRO. Its cargo jutted out too far to the right, where the bridge’s steel beams rose up before crossing overhead.