MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Federal officials were searching the country for a possible temporary replacement for a bridge that collapsed along the crucial Interstate 5 corridor, but Washington Gov. Jay Inslee cautioned Friday that major disruptions will last for weeks, if not months.
A truck hauling an oversized load of drilling equipment hit an overhead bridge girder Thursday night, sending a section of the highway into the river below. The truck driver watched helplessly as the structure collapsed in his rearview mirror. Two other vehicles plunged into the Skagit River, but all three occupants escaped with only minor injuries.
At a news conference, Inslee said federal officials were looking for a pre-fabricated structure to replace the 160-foot section that fell into the river. If one is found, a temporary fix could be in place in weeks. If one can’t be quickly secured, the governor said it could be months before a replacement can be built.
“You cannot overstate the importance of this corridor to Washington state,” Inslee said. Traffic on the interstate and surrounding roads was backed up for miles throughout the area, a situation that the governor said would continue indefinitely.
Cynthia Scott, the wife of truck driver William Scott, said Friday from the couple’s home near Spruce Grove, Alberta, that her husband saw the collapse.
“He looked in the mirrors and it just dropped out of sight,” Cynthia Scott said. “I spoke to him seconds after it happened. He was just horrified.”
The spectacular scene unfolded about 7 p.m. on the north section of the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle and 40 miles south of the Canada border.
The Washington State Patrol said the truck driver works for Mullen Trucking in Alberta. The tractor-trailer was hauling a housing for drilling equipment southbound when the top right front corner of the load struck several trusses on the north end of the bridge, the patrol said.
Scott voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test and was not arrested.