Mt. Vernon, WA. The Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Skagit River near Mt. Vernon, WA, collapsed last night just after 7 p.m. after a tractor-trailer with an oversized load struck the overhead span of the bridge, officials said.
Two vehicles fell into the river. Three people were rescued. There were no fatalities, police said. The truck driver is a 42-year-old man from Alberta, Canada, who works for Mullen Transport, according to King 5 TV. He is cooperating with police.
“For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse,” said John Batiste, Washington State Patrol chief at a news conference.
The bridge is about 60 mi. north of Seattle.
“I’m thankful there were no fatalities tonight. I want to thank the U.S. Border Patrol, our State Patrol and local fire, police and other emergency personnel who participated in a very successful rescue effort,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Our hearts are with those who have been injured and we hope to hear good news soon of their speedy recovery.”
Inslee said that witnesses said a truck hit the bridge, causing it to collapse, “but an investigation has been launched to confirm that.”
According to an Associated Press article in the Washington Post, the bridge is listed as “functionally obsolete” by the Federal Highway Administration. This listing indicates the bridge “design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath,” the AP reported.
Local news and the Associated Press quoted a driver on the scene: “I saw the truck strike the right corner of the bridge. It almost tipped the truck over but it came back down. 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.”
“The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on their way [today], and I’ve been in touch with our federal partners,” Inslee 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 tomorrow to make sure we have the resources to do so as quickly as possible. 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.”
NTSB Highway Safety Investigator Robert Accetta will serve as the investigator-in-charge, leading a multi-disciplinary team of NTSB personnel, the agency said. An NTSB investigator from the Seattle office is en route to the scene and the remainder of the team will arrive on-scene later today.
The Washington Dept. of Transportation (WDOT) is advising motorists to seek alternate routes around the bridge collapse. Traffic is being diverted off southbound I-5 at Exit 230. For an alternate route, take eastbound SR 20, then south on S. Burlington Blvd. and west on E. College Way (SR 538) to southbound I-5.
Northbound I-5 traffic must exit at Exit 227. An alternate route is east to E. College Way to northbound Riverside Drive-S. Burlington Boulevard, then west on George Hopper Road to I-5.
To use SR 9 as an alternate northbound route, bypassing Mount Vernon, take Exit 221 at SR 534 east to northbound SR 9 to SR 20 westbound to I-5.
Up-to-the minute traffic updates are available on the WSDOT Twitter page here.