Report: Oversize load 'crowded' by passer prior to striking I-5 bridge

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 6/11/2013

Federal investigators have acknowledged a second truck in their investigation into the Interstate 5 bridge collapse in May north of Seattle.

In a preliminary report released Tuesday, June 11, the National Transportation Safety Board stated that William Scott, the Canadian driver of the oversized truck load, told investigators he felt “crowded” by a truck that was passing him as Scott and his pilot car arrived at the bridge.

The oversize load, which had a legal permit, struck overhead supports of the Skagit River Bridge in the early evening of May 23.

Seconds later, a 160-foot section collapsed behind Scott and the other truck, sending two passenger vehicles into the river. Three people were injured and were rescued from the water, but no one died as a result of the collapse.

NTSB investigators have not yet determined an exact cause of the collapse. The preliminary report does, however, narrate a series of events.

“According to witnesses, as both vehicles approached the bridge, another southbound truck-tractor in combination with a semitrailer overtook and passed the oversize load in the left lane,” the report states.

“The driver of the oversize load reported to investigators that he felt ‘crowded’ by the passing combination vehicle so he moved his vehicle to the right. As the oversize load was being transported across the bridge, the top of the load collided with the overhead portal and multiple sway braces on the far right side of the truss structure. The impacts caused significant damage to load-bearing members of the bridge’s superstructure, resulting in the failure and subsequent collapse of the northernmost bridge span.”

The over-height permit obtained by Mullen Trucking based in Alberta, Canada, was for 15 feet, 9 inches. According to the NTSB, the overhead clearance on the Skagit River Bridge was 18 feet high down the center but just 14 feet, 6 inches at the right edge of the right lane. Investigators said the pilot car ahead of Scott’s vehicle had a clearance pole measured at 16 feet, 2 inches.

Washington State Highway Patrol investigators are searching for the second truck, but even with video evidence in the case, they don’t have much to go on except that it is an unknown color semi pulling a white trailer.

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