Cherokee, NC Footbridge Collapse, July 1955



Cherokee, N.C., July 4 -- (UP) -- Five of an estimated 100 persons thrown onto jagged rocks on the Oconaluftee River bed when a footbridge collapsed yesterday lay in critical condition today. Two others died of injuries received when they tumbled into the shallow stream.
At least a score of victims of the bridge collapse remained hospitalized and reports said some 48 others received first aid.
The 150-foot bridge gave way shortly before noon yesterday when it was jammed with holiday tourists. Cables supporting the structure jerked from their moorings tumbling pedestrians 10 to 15 feet onto the rocks below.
The bridge formed a passageway from U.S. Highway 441 to a group of souvenir shops at the Cherokee Indian reservation.
Only a few at either end of the wooden walkway were able to scramble to safety. The others struck the rocks or splashed into the water and were hit by timbers, cables or other victims, witnesses said.
Sgt. T. A. Sandlin of the North Carolina Highway Patrol said quick action by crowds on shore prevented any drownings. The injured were taken to hospitals in ambulances and private automobiles.
Chief OSLEY BIRD SUNANOOKE of the eastern band of the Cherokees said tribal officials in charge of the bridge had posted guards to prevent crowding on the bridge, but the overeager visitors pressed past them.
He said that at the moment of the crash some small boys were jumping up and down near the center of the bridge. Eyes weired in the eyd of cable anchors were pulled out of shape by the strain, he said.
There were gasps and screams as the bridge flipped over, spilling victims, he said.
JACK DAVIS, who works at an Indian gift shop at the bridge entrance, said he had just crossed the bridge and had one foot on the boards and one on solid ground when the cable snapped.
"I would have gone down too, except that I managed to grab the legs of a woman in front of me," he said. "She was on good solid ground."
He said many of the tourists swarming both sides of the river rushed down the steep banks to help the injured from the water.

Oakland Tribune California 1955-07-04


Cherokee Bridge

My parents, sister and myself were on the bridge and fell into the water and rocks. My dad managed to pull me to him and protected me from being injured. He received a severe laceration on his arm that required many stitches. My mom had a cable hit her face, went through her cheek and broke some teeth. My sister landed on a lady and was unharmed. They wrapped my dads arm and we drove back home to our local hospital.jirl3

Cherokee footbridge collapse.

My Dad was one of the last ones to step off the bridge. He turned around and snapped a picture just as it happened. The local paper developed his film, printed the picture in their paper, and mailed him the pictures along with the paper clipping

Thank you

Thanks for your research. My late parents were on the footbridge in Cherokee when it collapsed. I recall seeing an old newspaper clipping many years ago.