Mount Vernon (Washington): Authorities searched for a temporary span after a key bridge linking the US and Canada collapsed, dumping a handful of vehicles and people into the icy water.
All three people who fell into the Skagit River in northwestern Washington state escaped with only minor injuries.
The four-lane Interstate 5 bridge collapsed about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, after an oversize truck hit the span, the Washington State Patrol chief said.
Officials are trying to find out whether the spectacular collapse of a bridge on one of the West`s most important roadways was a fluke or a sign of a bigger problem with thousands of bridges across the US.
Authorities focused first on trying to find a temporary span for the Skagit, although it won`t come in time for the tens of thousands who would travel between Canada and Seattle during one of the busiest holidays in the US, Memorial Day weekend.
"You cannot overstate the importance of this corridor to Washington state," Gov. Jay Inslee said. Traffic on I-5 and surrounding roads was backed up for miles, a situation the governor said would continue indefinitely.
Officials were looking for a temporary, pre-fabricated bridge to replace the 50-meter section that failed, Inslee said yesterday. If one is found, it could be in place in weeks. If not, it could be months before a replacement can be built, the governor said.
The trucker, William Scott, was hauling a load of drilling equipment when his load bumped against the steel framework over the bridge. He looked in his rearview mirror and watched in horror as the span collapsed into the water behind him.
"He looked in the mirrors and it just dropped out of sight," Cynthia Scott, the trucker`s wife, said from the couple`s home in Canada.
"I spoke to him seconds after it happened. He was just horrified."
The truck driver works for Mullen Trucking in Alberta, the Washington State Patrol said. The tractor-trailer was hauling the equipment southbound when the top right front corner of the load struck several of the bridge`s trusses, the patrol said.
Scott, 41, remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators. He voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test and was not arrested.
Scott has been driving truck for 20 years and hauling specialised loads for more than 10.
Initially, it wasn`t clear if the bridge just gave way on its own. But Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed it on the too-tall load. The vertical clearance from the roadway to the beam is 4.45 meters.