Past Bridge Collapses in Recent U.S. History

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 2, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JOHN GIBSON, "BIG STORY" HOST: This is not the first time a bridge has buckled in America, and I'm afraid to say it probably won't be the last. Let's take a look back now at some of the past bridge disasters in U.S. history. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy is here now with more on that.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, in a lot of ways we are a nation of bridges but unfortunately dozens have either fallen down or met with disaster. Survivors say it is an experience that is almost unimaginable.


KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): One second the road is under you. The next second it is gone. That's the strange sensation shared by dozens of Americans who survive the unthinkable.

Describe what happened to you?

DAVID PACE, BRIDGE COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: We went to go across the bridge, and I grabbed a pillow, threw it over her head and I said, baby, we are going down.

KENNEDY: Truck driver David Pace was driving with his wife on the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, Connecticut, when it collapsed 24 years ago, his tractor trailer plunging 80 feet into the water below.

After you hit the water, what did you do?

PACE: I reached for my wife. We were both screaming, what happened? You just don't know what is going on around you.

KENNEDY: In a similar story told by travelers on the Queen Isabella Causeway which collapsed in Texas in 2001 after a barge damaged the bridge's support structure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They described the scene as being like a war zone. Basically, you couldn't see your hand in front of you.

KENNEDY: A ship also caused the deadliest bridge collapse in memory, sending 35 people to their deaths when it collided with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, Florida, on May 9, 1980.

The same thing happened in Webbers Falls in 2002 when a 540-foot section of I-40 plunged into the Arkansas River killing 14 people.

It was an earthquake that brought down sections of Interstate 880 in San Francisco in 1989.

And perhaps the most dramatic footage, wind and what has become known as mechanical resonance brought down the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Automobiles were crossing at the time but everybody got to safety as cables snapped and the Tacoma Bridge plunged into Puget Sound 190 feet below.

KENNEDY: But no matter how they went down, survivors of bridge collapses say it is something they will never forget and in fact will live with for the rest of their lives.

How are the survivors of bridge collapse in Minneapolis going to cope with this for the next decade or two decades?

PACE: All they can do is put it in the grace of God. I tell myself every day it will never happen again.


KENNEDY: But it does happen again and each time Pace says he is stunned. He says he is glad to be alive but as long as he lives he will always be scared of bridges and ironically, John, Pace went over that exact same bridge in Minnesota just last week on a trucking trip.

GIBSON: Douglass, there are two classes of those bridge collapses, one where something hits the bridge and another where the bridge seems to collapse on its own?

KENNEDY: Yeah. The Greenwich bridge just crumbled because of lack of repair but most of the bridges go down go down for some natural disaster or usually a boat.

GIBSON: Douglas Kennedy, thank you very much.

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