*Photos below are courtesy of the Everett Herald and HeraldNet.com, and credit to photographers Jennifer Buchanan and Jon Bauer…
The Skagit River bridge collapsed on Thursday night, around 7 p.m. PST, leaving cars in the river and a highway closure between Burlington and Mount Vernon, in Washington State.
Two men and one woman were rescued from the water and all are in stable condition at nearby hospitals, so it doesn’t appear anyone has received life-threatening injuries. Rescue boats were also sent to recover a car and a pickup truck (towing a trailer) that went off the bridge and into the river.
Traffic on the Interstate-5 highway has been stopped in both directions, and is now completely closed (as of 9:57 a.m. PST). The Skagit River bridge is a four-lane section of the highway, located on the I-5 between Burlington and Mount Vernon, Wash.
This weekend (May 24-26) figures to be very busy for traffic in the area and along the I-5, as thousands of people are heading south for Memorial Day weekend and attending the Sasquatch Music Festival near George, Wash.
Travelers from B.C. to Sasquatch and to anywhere else south of the accident (such as Seattle, Tacoma, or Bellevue) are being advised to take alternate routes.
Southbound traffic intended to cross the bridge is now being rerouted at Highway 20 to Burlington Boulevard (Burlington) and northbound traffic is being rerouted at College Way to Riverside Drive (Mount Vernon).
Just got word it took 70 minutes to go from downtown Bellingham to just south of downtown Mt. Vernon.
— WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) May 24, 2013
Hearing that the SB I-5 commute across the Skagit is taking about 40 minutes longer than usual.
— WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) May 24, 2013
The stretch of the I-5 that crosses the bridge carried over 70,000 vehicles per day and is a major route for travel and trade between Seattle and Vancouver and British Columbia and the United States. There is currently no timetable for traffic to return to normal, with some saying it could be weeks.
“Now we begin the recovery stage dealing with a major interstate highway that is nonfunctional at the moment,” said Marcus Deyerin, a spokesman for the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team. “We were extremely lucky that it wasn’t worse.”
News 1130 reported on Friday morning that a caller to Komo News Radio blamed the collapse on a truck driver whose vehicle struck the bridge.
“That caused the collapse,” the caller said. “It hit the steel girder. It was in the right-hand lane, I was in the left-hand lane about 50 feet in front of the truck. The truck struck the very first steel girder on the right-hand side. When it got over in the right-hand lane it started to get down in height, if he would have been in the fast lane, he would have cleared. The right-hand top corner of the box struck the corner of the bridge and made it collapse. I watched the whole thing in my mirror.”
Washington State Patrol confirms they are inspecting to the truck and speaking with the driver, who has been identified as William Scott of Spruce Grove, Alberta and drives for Mullen Trucking.
“He’s a little bit bewildered,” said Ed Scherbinski, vice president of Mullen. “He looks in the (rearview) mirror and the bridge is coming down behind him.”
State Patrol blamed the accident – which occurred on the northbound side of the bridge – on the height of the load, which was a housing for drilling equipment. The trucking company, however, said it had a state permit to carry their load across the bridge.
Perspective 2. About the same number of vehicles use the #Pattullo Bridge as the I-5 span. Pattullo is 20 years older, built in 1936.
— Ted Field (@tedfieldglobal) May 24, 2013
According to the Everett Herald, the website NationalBridges.com “classifies the Skagit River bridge over the I-5 as ‘functionally obsolete’, which indicates the design is not ideal, but it is not rated as ‘structurally deficient.'”
In September, 2011, the Skagit River bridge was listed on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s “Structurally Deficient Bridges” list.
According the Department of Transportation, “Structurally deficient means that a bridge requires repair or replacement of a certain component, such as cracked or spalled concrete or the entire bridge itself.
“Being structurally deficient does not imply that the bridge is in danger of collapse or unsafe to the traveling public.”
The photo below is a screenshot from the WSDOT’s report (last updated in September, 2011):
*More photos below and media, courtesy of the Everett Herald and HeraldNet.com, a publication of Sound Publishing. All photos credit to Jennifer Buchanan and Jon Bauer, of The Herald.