Skagit River Bridge has history of strikes from overheight vehicles

Skagit Valley HeraldMay 27, 2013 

— The Skagit River Bridge has a history of strikes from overheight vehicles, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

The last time a vehicle struck the bridge was Oct. 22, 2012, said Chairman Debbie Hersman, and it occurred in a northbound lane of the bridge. Hersman displayed a slide that showed a visible gouge out of one of the support beams.

“We know there are a number of overheight strikes. Some may or may not be reported (by trucking companies),” Hersman said. “Some may be identified in a bridge inspection.”

The northernmost span of the bridge collapsed about 7 p.m. Thursday after a truck heading south to Vancouver, Wash., struck several trusses with an oversized load. The semi truck was carrying a drill housing from Alberta, Canada. The truck did not fall into the river, but two vehicles and three people did. All three people were rescued.

The NTSB is examining 10 years of bridge records to see how often vehicles strike the bridge, Hersman said.

At the same time, the NTSB will conduct an investigation into the pilot car for the oversized load, the driver of the rig and what he was hauling.

“We have requested drug and alcohol testing be conducted,” Hersman said. “The NTSB have also requested cellphone records from the truck driver and pilot car operator.”

The NTSB will inspect the truck driver’s logs, medical history and rest history for both drivers, she said. The pilot car, a Dodge Ram pickup truck, had a height pole mounted on the front right corner of the truck. The NTSB and State Patrol have not examined the pilot car, she said.

Hersman said it is the responsibility of the motor carrier to verify that its load will clear all bridges.

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