'Like A Hollywood Movie': Driver Tells Of Plunge As Bridge Colla - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

'Like A Hollywood Movie': Driver Tells Of Plunge As Bridge Collapses

Posted: Updated:

NBCNEWS - A driver said he thought he was about to die when an Interstate 5 bridge span collapsed in Washington state, plunging his pickup and another car into the Skagit River below.

Dan Sligh, his wife and another motorist found themselves waist-deep in water when the freeway crumbled moments after the bridge was clipped by an oversized truck, he told NBC affiliate KING5 of Seattle.

State officials said the rescue had been "amazing" and warned of major traffic disruption following the complete closure of the section of the road, near Mount Vernon.

Sligh, a Command Master Chief Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy, said the accident was "like a Hollywood movie unfolding in front of your eyes - up close and personal."

He said he managed to release his seat belt and climb out of his mangled truck to shallower water, despite fearing he had dislocated his shoulder.

His wife also escaped, and was being kept in the Skagit Valley hospital where she was being treated for internal bleeding.

"I thought we were done," Sligh told KING5 outside the hospital late Thursday. "When I look at all the carnage, all the metal, I assumed that was it at that point. But here we stand."

The couple waited 90 minutes on the roof of pickup awaiting rescue, he said, adding that the other driver was not seriously injured.

"I'm OK. I'm beat up. I feel like I rode a rodeo bull or something."

I-5 is the main freeway that runs up and down the West Coast between the Canadian and Mexican borders, and traffic was significantly backed up in both directions overnight.

The bridge collapse was caused by an oversize truck that hit an overhead span, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. The driver of the truck was cooperating with investigators, Batiste said.

"I'm thankful there were no fatalities," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. "This is an opportunity for us to pull together to show strength of character and patience and good citizenship as we deal with this disruption."

The 1,112-foot steel truss bridge, built in 1955, was described by the Washington State Department of Transportation, after an inspection in August 2010, as "somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as is."

Diversions have been set up and plans are already underway to install a replacement span, said Bart Treece, a spokesman for the department, describing the lack of more serous injuries as "amazing".

The section of the freeway carries 71,000 vehicles a day, he said, warning significant delays were likely over the Memorial Weekend.

"If you can reduce trips or take another route, that would help," he said.

The minimum vertical clearance on the bridge (distance from the road to something a truck can bump into) is 14.5 feet. The standard height is 16 feet.

Inslee's statement added: "We will be involved in a vigorous and diligent effort to get traffic flowing again through the Skagit bridge corridor and I will issue an emergency proclamation [Friday] to make sure we have the resources to do so as quickly as possible."

One study reports that 11.5 percent of the nation's bridges are "structurally deficient," but politics often get in the way of funding infrastructure projects. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

State inspection reports submitted to the Federal Highway Administration were reviewed by NBC News. That overall evaluation of the structural condition on the bridge corresponds to a score of 5 on a scale from 0 (worst) to 9 (best).

The bridge received identical scores on inspections in 2010, 2008 and 2006, and is on a schedule for inspection every 24 months, as generally required by federal regulations. State officials said Thursday evening they were working to make public a copy of the latest inspection report, presumably from 2012.

The bridge was of a "fracture critical" design, as are 18,000 bridges nationwide, meaning it could collapse if even one part failed.

Even after the bridge collapse that killed 13 people in Minneapolis in 2007, a haphazard system of inspections continued, with federal authorities choosing not to require re-inspection of all the fracture-critical bridges.

In a survey of every state by msnbc.com in 2008, only six states and the District of Columbia said they began to recheck all their fracture-critical bridges.

Officials in Washington state, like in most states, said they performed special inspections of only their few dozen bridges of the particular deck-truss design used in Minneapolis.

The bridge that fell Thursday did go on to receive its regular inspections in 2008 and 2010, according to the federal records, called the National Bridge Inventory.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Hobo Spider season has arrived

    PHOTOS: Hobo Spider season has arrived

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:37:17 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Mid August is about the time that we start to see spiders come into our homes, particularly the hobo spider. August and September is mating season for the hobo and that means you may be seeing more funnel-like webs in and around your home. Males are on a mission to find a female which is why they are a lot more active at this time.>>
    KHQ.COM - Mid August is about the time that we start to see spiders come into our homes, particularly the hobo spider. August and September is mating season for the hobo and that means you may be seeing more funnel-like webs in and around your home. Males are on a mission to find a female which is why they are a lot more active at this time.
    >>
  • Man hospitalized after downtown dispute

    Man hospitalized after downtown dispute

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:09:05 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - One man is in critical condition after a fight in downtown Spokane early Sunday morning, according to Spokane Police. Patrol officers found the man unresponsive at 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Sprague and Stevens. Witnesses told police the injured man had walked out in front of a taxi and started a fight.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - One man is in critical condition after a fight in downtown Spokane early Sunday morning, according to Spokane Police. Patrol officers found the man unresponsive at 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Sprague and Stevens. Witnesses told police the injured man had walked out in front of a taxi and started a fight.>>
  • Throwback Thursday! Look At 'Sunshine Shelly' Through The Years!

    Throwback Thursday! Look At 'Sunshine Shelly' Through The Years!

    Thursday, March 20 2014 1:04 PM EDT2014-03-20 17:04:11 GMT
    KHQ.COM - It's throwback Thursday! Here is a slideshow we would like to share of Shelly Monahan through the years! For those of you who have been in Spokane for many years, and saw her through her "Sunshine Shelly" days, you will probably remember the Shelly from back in those days. Enjoy!>>
    KHQ.COM - It's throwback Thursday! Here is a slideshow we would like to share of Shelly Monahan through the years! For those of you who have been in Spokane for many years, and saw her through her "Sunshine Shelly" days, you will probably remember the Shelly from back in those days. Enjoy!>>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • Obama, Biden push for higher minimum wage

    Obama, Biden push for higher minimum wage

    Monday, September 1 2014 12:30 PM EDT2014-09-01 16:30:43 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today are using Labor Day appearances to press the case for a federal increase in the minimum wage -- a top issue for Democrats. In Detroit, Biden told hundreds of union members that they deserve a "fair share" of any improvement in corporate profits.>>
    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today are using Labor Day appearances to press the case for a federal increase in the minimum wage -- a top issue for Democrats. In Detroit, Biden told hundreds of union members that they deserve a "fair share" of any improvement in corporate profits.>>
  • Lawmakers: Islamic State groups wants to hit US

    Lawmakers: Islamic State groups wants to hit US

    Monday, September 1 2014 12:07 PM EDT2014-09-01 16:07:17 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawmakers are warning that the United States and Western Europe are likely to be future targets of Islamic State militants. They say President Barack Obama needs to take action. Without offering specifics on threats or suggestions on how to confront them, the leaders of intelligence committees in the Senate and House are sharing a dire warning about the Islamic State group.>>
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawmakers are warning that the United States and Western Europe are likely to be future targets of Islamic State militants. They say President Barack Obama needs to take action. Without offering specifics on threats or suggestions on how to confront them, the leaders of intelligence committees in the Senate and House are sharing a dire warning about the Islamic State group.
    >>
  • VIRAL VIDEO: Holy Moly! This girl is definitely NOT afraid of spiders!

    VIRAL VIDEO: Holy Moly! This girl is definitely NOT afraid of spiders!

    Monday, September 1 2014 12:00 PM EDT2014-09-01 16:00:12 GMT
    KHQ.COM - You don't even know what this girl is about to do to prove she is definitely NOT afraid of spiders! Is she crazy or just fearless? Would you do this for $500? $1,000? $20,000? >>>WATCH>>>>>
    KHQ.COM - You don't even know what this girl is about to do to prove she is definitely NOT afraid of spiders! Is she crazy or just fearless? Would you do this for $500? $1,000? $20,000? >>>WATCH>>>>>