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Bridge Collapse In WA State Sends Cars, People into Water - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Bridge Collapse In WA State Sends Cars, People into Water

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UPDATE May 23, 1:50 AM: MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (Source -KIRO News CBS Seattle News Partner): The Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon collapsed Thursday evening, dumping vehicles and people into the water shortly after 7 p.m.

The collapse was believed to have been caused by an over-height vehicle striking the north span of the bridge, State Department of Transportation spokesman Travis Phelps told KIRO 7.

"That means something a little bit too tall, a little bit too wide potentially striking some of the critical structure supports that caused this bridge to collapse."

Witnesses told KIRO 7 one person was covered by a blanket and taken from the scene in a boat, though authorities did not immediately confirm fatalities or the number of injuries.

The scene is about 60 miles north of Seattle, just north of Mount Vernon and about two miles south of Burlington.

At least two people were sitting on separate cars immediately after the collapse waiting to be rescued from the water. The river is roughly 18 feet deep and was 46 degrees Thursday. At least one vehicle remained overturned in the river shortly before 9 p.m.

"We heard the terrible noise and thought, 'What in the world was that?'" Rita Miller, an employee at the nearby Riverbend RV Park told KIRO/7. She said there "were only two people alive that we could see."

Miller described what she said looked like a travel trailer sticking up from the water "but there's no truck or anything that you can see that would have been hauling it."

Miller said a Navy rescue team was on the site with a helicopter with dozens of first responders. The injured were taken to the north bank of the Skagit River and rushed to a hospital.

A crowd of about 2,000 people gathered at the bridge. A hovercraft was near the fifth bridge span to the north and was fighting the strong Skagit River current on the bridge's west side during the rescue effort.

It was not clear what caused the collapse. Drivers were told to stay away, and by 9 p.m. traffic was backed up in both directions for more than 10 miles.

The four-lane north and southbound bridge, built in 1955, was used by 70,000 vehicles daily, according to 2010 statistics.

The National Bridge Inventory Database gave the bridge a 57.4 rating. The scale goes from 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst. A bridge with a rating of 50 or less qualifies for replacement, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

National Transportation Safety Board staff was at the scene Thursday night, and responders set up an emergency operations center. The National Weather Service said there was nothing unusual with current or recent river levels or the forecast.

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BREAKING: Washington state authorities say no fatalities in Interstate 5 bridge collapse.

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UPDATE: NBC Reports that at least three motorists were rescued from the water and transported to hospitals.

The Skagit River bridge in Washington state collapsed Thursday evening, dumping vehicles and people into the water.

According to officials it is still unclear how many were in the water or the extent the injuries.

It is not known at this time what caused the collapse.

A red car and a pickup truck were visible in the water as rescuers arrived to search for possible victims.

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MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) - The Washington State Patrol says the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon has collapsed, dumping vehicles and people into the water.

Trooper Mark Francis said the four-lane bridge collapsed about 7 p.m.

Francis says he has no idea how many people are in the water or whether there are any injuries or deaths.

He did not know what caused the collapse.

A Skagit Valley Herald reporter at the scene says a sheriff's office rescue boat has arrived and rescue crews are looking for people in the water.

The reporter saw one person sitting atop one vehicle in the water and could see a second vehicle as well. The newspaper reports that crowds of people are lining the river to watch the scene unfold.

Picture Courtesy: KOMO News

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