US bridge collapse sends cars, people into river
(AFP) A highway bridge over a river in the northwestern US state of Washington partially collapsed Thursday, sending cars and people plunging into the water below without causing any fatalities.
Three people were fished out but there were no reports of serious injuries or fatalities in the incident, which officials said appeared to have been caused by a high-sided truck hitting a bridge span.
Pictures showed a large mangled section of the bridge, which carries the Interstate 5 highway over the Skagit river north of Seattle, collapsed into the water, with traffic and crowds of people visible on the end nearest land.
The four-lane road bridge, built in 1955 according to reports, is some 60 miles north of Seattle. The I-5 freeway runs up the US West Coast, from the Mexican border all the way to Canada.
"The good news is, it appears there have been no fatalities," Washington Governor Jay Inslee told reporters during a visit to the scene.
"There were three people who were rescued from the river" and taken to local hospitals, he said, adding "there were some injuries," without providing further details.
Authorities called off the search and rescue operation later Thursday night.
"It appears as though there was only the three victims and there is nobody else in the water. We've discontinued our search," Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt told reporters.
A law enforcement source cited by the Seattle Times said about 150 yards (140 meters) of freeway collapsed, sending a car, a truck and a trailer into the water some 120 feet (40 meters) below.
"It's a hell of a ride," the source was quoted as saying.
The governor said a full investigation had been launched but that the collapse -- which took place at 7:00 pm (0200 GMT Friday) -- appeared to have been triggered by a large truck hitting some part of the bridge structure.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said a truck with an oversized load heading southbound in the far right lane had struck the bridge, which may have precipitated the collapse.
Dale Ogden told KING 5 television he saw the truck strike the bridge. "I was less than 50 feet away from the truck when it hit it... I had just passed it in the fast lane southbound and it had an oversized load," he said.
"I saw the truck strike the right corner of the bridge. It almost tipped the truck over but it came back down," he said.
"It tipped it up to about a 30-degree angle to the left and it came back down on its wheels and almost instantaneously behind that I saw girders falling in my rearview mirror."
Inslee called the I-5 corridor the "aorta" of transport in western Washington state and said every effort would be made to channel traffic around the disabled bridge.