A man and his wife sustained significant injuries when the Interstate 5 bridge in Mount Vernon collapsed Thursday evening after a tractor trailer truck collided with the bridge structure.
Police say that Dan Sligh and his wife were traveling southbound on I-5 just before 7 p.m. Thursday when a tractor trailer pulling an oversized load crashed into the overhead span of the bridge. The impact of the collision disrupted the structural integrity of the bridge and the pavement began to crumble.
“I hit the brakes and we went off,” Sligh said to reporters from a nearby hospital. He added that he saw the water approaching and that the bridge disappeared into a cloud of dust before his vehicle plunged into the frigid water below.
A man in another vehicle also fell into the water behind Sligh’s vehicle, and luckily that man was not injured. Sligh’s wife suffered some serious injuries and was taken to Skagit Valley Hospital to be treated for some internal bleeding, her husband said.
“We don’t think anyone else went into the water,” says Marcus Deyerin, Northwest Washington Incident Management Team spokesman. “At this point we’re optimistic.”
Sligh, a veteran member of the U.S. Navy, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the accident but was able to pop it back into place and help his wife get out of the car safely.
Quality of Collapsed Bridge in Question
Authorities say that the bridge was built in 1955 and after its latest inspection was listed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) as “functionally obsolete.” According to news reports, that designation means that parts of the bridge may require monitoring or repair, but it does not mean that the bridge is unsafe or likely to collapse.
The FHA says that a bridge’s designation as “functionally obsolete” does not typically prompt any shut down or other reaction from the agency. In fact, most bridges with a “functionally obsolete” designation remain open to traffic, according to officials within the FHA.
In Washington state, structurally deficient bridges are becoming increasingly troublesome – something that may not have garnered much attention had this particular accident not occurred on Thursday. According to a CNN report, the number of bridges that are considered “structurally deficient” in Washington has increased by almost 50 percent over the past six years.
Governor Jay Inslee says this accident illustrates the need for more funding for transportation infrastructure state wide.
“We have some work to do on our bridges whether or not this accident happened, and we have some discussions in Olympia about making sure that we make investments in bridges to prevent this kind of thing from happening,” Inslee said.