Today, May 23rd marks the 10 year anniversary of a serious bridge collapse caused by a truck hauling a too tall load through Washington.
A section of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit river in Mount Vernon, Washington fell into the water below, taking two vehicles with it, on May 23rd, 2013.
According to King 5 News, truck driver William Scott with Mullen Trucking was hauling an oversize load on the bridge when another truck came up on his left going fast. Scott then moved into the right lane of the bridge to let the other rig through without knowing the right lane had a lower clearance than the center lane. Scott’s load then struck some overhead beams on the bridge and brought a part of the structure down.
Investigation into the incident revealed that Scott thought his load was 15 feet 9 inches, but the load was actually 15 feet 11 inches. It was also found that Scott was 400 feet, or about five seconds, behind the pilot car, instead of the 865 feet, or 10 seconds, distance he was supposed to be following, leading officials to believe he would not have been able to stop in time even if the pilot car notified him that the load was too tall. The driver of the pilot car was also found to be on a phone call at the time of the incident.
Scott was issued a $550 ticket for his part in the events leading up to the bridge collapse and the owner of the item being hauled, Saxon Energy Services, Inc., was held financially responsible for the incident. Later, it was found that the state of Washington had automatically issued Mullen trucking a permit for the oversize load without ensuring the load would actually fit through the route.
The Washington State Department of Transportation later filed a $17 million lawsuit to recover the costs of the fallen bridge. The suit named Scott, Mullen Trucking, Saxon Energy Services, Inc., and the pilot car driver as the four parties responsible for the damage. Mullen trucking then countersued, stating that the state was partially at fault for incorrectly issuing a permit and not properly maintaining the bridge.
Two years later, Washington’s Supreme Court decided that the state cannot be held at fault for the accident, citing a law stating that vehicle owners are responsible for ensuring their vehicles can travel a route.
An emergency portion of the bridge was installed temporarily until September 2013, when workers replaced the section with a permanent repair.
The Skagit bridge sees approximately 71,000 vehicles a day and is Wasington’s major north-south roadway between Oregon and Canada.