Oversize load hit braces prior to bridge collapse

Tuesday, Jun 18 2013 admin

On May 29, a 2010 Kenworth truck-tractor with a 1997 Aspen flatbed trailer loaded with a casing shed was traveling south on I-5 when it crossed a bridge at milepost 228.25 in Mount Vernon, Skagit County, Washington. It was following a pilot car.

According to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, witnesses stated that as the oversize load and pilot car approached the bridge, a second truck-trailer, also traveling southbound, passed the oversize load in the left lane. The oversize load driver later told the accident investigators that this action made him “feel crowded”, so he moved over to the right. The top of his load subsequently “hit the overhead portal and multiple sway braces on the far right side of the truss structure.”

Load bearing components of the bridge superstructure were damaged on impact, thus leading to the failure and collapse of the northernmost bridge span. Two passenger vehicles were on that span at the time of the collapse and were sent into the Skagit River with the damaged portion of the bridge. The driver of a southbound 2010 Dodge Ram pickup towing a 2009 Jayco camper trailer and the driver of a northbound 2013 Subaru XV Crosstek along with a passenger were rescued from the water but sustained various injuries. An additional adjacent span received impact damage from the oversize load.

The driver reported to accident investigators that he believed the height of his oversize load was 15 feet 9 inches. The pilot car driver reported that her clearance pole mounted on the front of the vehicle was set at 16 feet 2 inches and reportedly cleared the bridge.

“The lowest portion of the sway braces, as measured over the active portion of the roadway, was determined to be 14 feet 8 inches,” said the report. “The over-water truss spans were non-load-path-redundant, and certain members of the truss were considered fracture critical.” The bridge was built in 1955.

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