Washington Bridge Collapse Blamed on Semi Tractor-Trailer

Truck accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the recent bridge collapse in Washington State was caused by a trailer tractor truck crash. Several vehicles and their passengers were sent into the frigid Skagit River.

Fortunately, no motorists died in the collapse, although two were fished from the river, which is about 15 feet deep, and two were hospitalized with hypothermia and other non-life-threatening injuries. The highway, Interstate 5, goes between Seattle and Vancouver and the bridge is located about 55 miles north of Seattle.

The State Patrol Chief John Batiste stated that a semi-trailer truck was heading southbound on the bridge when it struck a metal overhead beams in the minutes before it collapsed. It was reported that the size of the load on the truck created the problem, causing the too-tall load to strike the bridge unexpectedly. Investigators with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board spoke the driver, inspected the truck, and are still investigating to determine what the exact events that led to the bridge collapse.

The State Secretary of Transportation told Reuters that the bridge was built in 1955, and was not among the 150 bridges Washington listed as structurally deficient during inspections in 2011. Local television stations filmed onlookers who gathered on the bank of the Skagit River in the hours after the collapse, watching rescue attempts.

The truck made it off the bridge in time before it collapsed, and the driver remained at the scene to cooperate with investigators. Authorities have not yet confirmed what type of cargo the truck was carrying. Drivers are encouraged to avoid the area if possible, especially over the holiday weekend. The I-5 corridor continues to be disrupted, and traffic along the route could remain affected for an indefinite amount of time.

Washington legislators recently debated a $8.4 billion proposal that would fund a transportation package. A major issue surrounding this package is whether or not it should include a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River connecting Portland, Oregon with Vancouver, Washington.

This incident mirrored the tragic accident that took place in the Twin Cities in Minnesota in 2007. One of the state’s busiest highways, Interstate 35W, collapsed on August first of that year, killing 13 people and injuring 145 of the survivors.

As the bridge crumbled into the Mississippi river it instantaneously became a symbol of the deteriorating national infrastructure. Barry LePatner, author of a book on America’s failing infrastructure, stated that, since 1989, there have been nearly 600 bridge failures, many of which were barely publicized.

According to LePatner, a large number of bridges in every state pose a significant danger to the driving public. What is perhaps most alarming about this most recent collapse is that the bridge was inspected twice in 2012, with repairs made. In the Federal Highway Administration database the bridge is listed as functionally obsolete, which means the design is outdated. It also has a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 (the state average is 80).

Transportation officials are currently working on plans for either a permanent or temporary replacement bridge. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Washington State a C in its 2013 infrastructure report card, and a C- for its bridges. The report also noted that more than 25% of the state’s 7,840 bridges were either structurally deficient of functionally obsolete.

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently investigating cases of personal injury involving deficient infrastructure. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a roadway incident caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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