MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A truck hauling an oversized load of drilling equipment hit an overhead bridge girder on the major interstate between Seattle and Canada, sending a section of the span into a 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.
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.
The driver, William Scott, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, near Edmonton, voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test and was not arrested. A top company official said Scott 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. "He looks in the (rearview) mirror and the bridge is coming down behind him."
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 the driver 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.