Saturday, May 26, 2012

I-40 Bridge Collapse: 10 Years

10 years ago this morning, a barge traveling up the Arkansas River struck a bridge support on I-40, causing a 580-foot section of the span to collapse into the river, and plunging about 10 vehicles into the water. 14 people were killed in the accident.

I distinctly remember the event, and the aftermath. Before heading to church that morning, my parents had the news on, and I remember seeing the coverage. Around that time, the kids at the church we attended had a sort of news and comics "club" (weekly exchange of hand-written articles, trivia, or cartoons), and I wrote the following story, complete with a drawing of the scene.

(I suppose one could call this my first "blog" post...) 
In the hours after the bridge was hit, rumors flew that the detour bridge upstream was also struck by a barge. That was not the case, but following the I-40 event, work was done along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System to strengthen and guard bridge supports from such an accident happening again.

I can recall driving down to Webbers Falls while the bridge was out, and seeing the temporary memorial there in town. The bridge was rebuilt in two months, a record for a project of that scope.

Just yesterday, I drove through Webbers Falls, and was thinking about the bridge disaster. It still doesn't seem like it's been ten years since it happened.

Although I was not affected by the event, now that I think about it, I do have a habit of checking the river when I drive over a bridge. Strange, how things can impact your behavior, even when you were far removed from the occurrence in the first place.


  1. I remember it clearly. The event did not affect me that day, but at the time I traveled I-40 at least once a week.

    I will still, to this day, unbuckle my seat belt and roll down my window when I cross a bridge.


    Bobbie McAuliffe

  2. I remember the details about the barge traveling up the Arkansas River on the Local News, And it's still spooky to me traveling across the new bridge because You never know if something like this might happen again!

    I worry about all bridges in Oklahoma, I still remember the Calvin bridge collapse that occurred on May 21, 1976 and I traveled across the Calvin bridge daily until it collapsed!


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