Murdochville QB Bridge Collapse, May 1963


Murdochville, Que. (CP) - Six men are presumed drowned in the swirling York River after four cars plunged off a washed-out bridge Wednesday.
Another four men were saved because their Volkswagen floated and was washed ashore by the racing water.
Nearly half of the 120-foot concrete bridge disappeared into the river when flood-waters eroded a central pillar. Provincial police said it mush have collapsed between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Wednesday in time to trap men on their way to work at Gaspe Copper Mines in Murdochville.
Provincial police, after checking families in the mining district 350 miles northeast of Quebec City, turned up the names of six who would have been on the road and who had not returned. Others might be missing, but they would be strangers whose movements were not known, they said.
First reports had listed as many as 12 missing but all except six eventually were accounted for.
Missing are: ROBERT McCOY, Barachois; HUBERT PATTERSON, 63, Sunny Bank; MELROSE MILLER, 32, York; HERMAN SIMON, 33, Wakeham; LIONEL LEVESQUE, 35, Murdochville; and WILSON COTTON, 31, Sandy Beach.
Police deduced from tire marks that four cars had fallen into the river.
The small car belonging to Tom Nelson, 33, of Gaspe, floated ashore with its occupants inside. Another belonging to Miller was recovered unoccupied. A third was found and had been partly fished out of the 25 feet of water when the current tore it away from searchers.
Nelson said his car was going no more than 30 to 35 miles per hour when it went in. He said morning mists partly obscured the view, and the structure of the bridge was such that it was not easy to see that the first span was missing.
Nelson did not see the gap until he was 20 feet away. The little car hit the water, went under, and floated up again. Nelson said it grated on some things as it floated, and he had the impression the things were hulks of cars that had gone in previously.
With Nelson were Wayne Miller, 22; Dean Patterson, 20, and Gordon Palmer, 24, all of Gaspe. They got out the door and swam a dozen yards to land.
Their car floated 200 yards before it brushed against the shore.
The four then lit fires on the road to warn other cars that the bridge was gone.
They waited 1 1/2 hours before a truck picked them up and took them to Murdochville.
The weather was good and the sky was clear Wednesday, although the road was slightly wet from an early rain.
There is still five to six feet of snow in places and the river is high because of melting snow from the mountains. Normally, the water would be only about 10 feet deep.
The collapse of the bridge, built in 1955, recalled the collapse of a span of the Duplessis Bridge near Trois-Rivieres, Que., in 1951, when five were killed.

The Windsor Star Ontario Canada 1963-05-23