The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 24, 2013

I-5 bridge collapse caused by truck hitting span

— MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — The Interstate 5 bridge collapse into the Skagit River was caused by an oversize truck hitting the span, the Washington State Patrol chief said.

"For reasons unknown at this point in time the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse," Batiste told an overnight news conference.

The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.

Two other vehicles went into the water Thursday evening as the structure crumbled. Three people were rescued and are recovering.

Drivers should expect delays at the break in the major north-south highway about 60 miles north of Seattle. Detours have been set up to try to ease the congestion.

Batiste urged drivers to avoid the area if possible, especially over the Memorial Day weekend.

Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup truck on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."

"I hit the brakes and we went off," Sligh told reporters from a hospital, adding he "saw the water approaching ... you hold on as tight as you can."

Sligh, his wife and another man in a different vehicle were dumped into the chilly waters of the Skagit River. They were injured, but miraculously, authorities said it appeared nobody was killed in the bridge failure that raised the question about the safety of aging spans and cut off the main route between Seattle and Canada.

"We don't think anyone else went into the water," said Marcus Deyerin, a spokesman for the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team. "At this point we're optimistic."

Sligh and his wife were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other man was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said.

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