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Reflecting: A Decade After the Skagit River Bridge Collapse

Updated on: 5/23/2023

A Dodge Ram partially submerged in water after a bridge collapse. A support beam can be seen in the foreground and rescue crews in a red boat can be seen in the backgroundMay 23, 2023 officially marks 10 years since the I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse that injured three people and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in additional damage and losses.

KOMO news today published a feature on the case looking back at what occurred and the outcome of the lawsuit. To add some more context to this feature, we'll take a look back at the lifetime of the case, as Davis Law Group represented two of the injured victims of the collapse, Dan and Sally Sligh. 

The Facts of the Case

Dan and Sally Sligh were travelling south on I-5 when a semi-truck that exceeded the maximum vertical clearance of the Skagit River Bridge collided with multiple support beams, causing the bridge to collapse, and both vehicles to fall into the river below.

They were trapped until rescue crews were able to safely remove them, but not before each suffered serious physical injuries and other emotional harm. 

What Caused the Collapse?

A pilot car had been assigned to lead the semi-truck as it was bearing an oversize load. However, neither the pilot car driver or the truck driver acted with due care to properly assess the clearance of the bridge or find an alternate plan to safely cross.

There were also troubling questions about the level of preparation and planning that had gone into this particular trip, as the height issue should have been identified during this process. News reports indicated early on that the driver of the pilot car involved in the collision may have been talking on a cell phone when the semi-truck struck the bridge span. 

Following the collapse, a temporary span was installed to restore traffic flow while plans for a permanent replacement were put in place. The temporary span was opened to traffic on June 19, 2013, just under a month after the collapse occurred. Construction of a permanent replacement bridge began in August 2013 and was completed in September 2013.

Local & Federal Investigations

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted an investigation into the collapse and concluded that the primary cause was the collision of the oversize truck with the bridge's support structure. The NTSB report also highlighted deficiencies in the bridge's design and recommended measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The NTSB also concluded that the truck driver failed to consider the vertical clearance as well, so when the top of the overside load hit the overhead bridge truss, the north span of the bridge collapsed. The Slighs contacted Davis Law Group to represent them in the subsequent lawsuit against the trucking company. 

The Skagit River Bridge collapse served as a reminder of the importance of infrastructure maintenance and the need for ongoing assessments and repairs to ensure the safety and integrity of bridges and roadways.

Outcome of the Lawsuit

Davis Law Group was able to recover a confidential settlement on behalf of Dan and Sally Sligh. While their lives will never be the same after experiencing such a traumatic event, the settlement helped them move forward and have the peace of mind knowing that the bills they accrued as a result of the crash were taken care of. 

The Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) also filed its own lawsuit against multiple parties involved in the collision to recoup some of the damages and costs of the incident iteslf, plus the efforts to rebuild the span of bridge involved in the collapse. 

In addition to their physical injuries, the Slighs also suffered significant psychological trauma as a result of this crash and because of the long-term effects it has had on their lives, vowed to never travel across this particular bridge again. 


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