Hempstead, TX Bridge Collapses, Jan 1956
5 TRAPPED AS BRIDGE COLLAPSES.
HUGE CRANE BREAKS SPAN, PLUMMETS 12 WORKERS IN RIVER.
Hempstead, Tex. (UP) -- A bridge under construction collapsed Friday night under the weight of a huge crane and plunged 12 terrified workmen and more than a million pounds of steel and concrete into the Brazos River 75 feet below.
Five of the 12 workmen were still missing and little hope was held for them. At first it was thought there was a possibility they might have been trapped above the water in the wreckage -- a little is sticking out above water although the river is 15 feet deep.
But searchlights were turned on the wreckage from every possible angle and there was no sign of men.
A diving crew from Houston, 55 miles away, arrived shortly before midnight but decided to wait until daylight to start work because of the rain and darkness.
A 180-foot span of the bridge was lying over on its side, sagging into the water.
Two of the seven survivors were critically injured, and a third was hospitalized. The other four swam ashore with only minor injuries.
The five men who were still missing were:
W. P. DUNCAN, 48.
W. O. SETHMAN.
W. D. BOYD, 27.
BILL BETHEA, 25.
All but HOFF worked for the Austin Bridge Co. and were living in Hempstead, since they mov from job-to-job.
The bridge had been under construction for nearly a year. HOFF is a highway department steel engineer from Austin.
So far no one had been able to go out to the crane. The river is about 200 feet wide, but the whole bridge is more than 600.
Workers were using the crane to set an I-beam in the bridge span where a concrete pier collapsed. The bridge was hanging over at a strange angle on the wreckage of the pier and it appeared the bridge would fall in before morning. It was shifting slowly.
Long Beach Independent California 1956-01-21
BODY RECOVERED FROM TEXAS RIVER.
Hempstead, Tex. (AP) -- A diver has recovered one of the five bodies missing in the Brazos River where a bridge under construction collapsed Friday.
The body was that of WILLIAM G. BETHEA, 24, civil engineer, of Dallas.
Diver Jimmy Jones, a Houston policeman, said he found the body under a steel girder on the river bottom.
The bodies of four other men are believed to be nearby, possibly pinned under a 60-ton derrick which also toppled into the river after the center section of the bridge near Hempstead buckled and collapsed.
Divers continued their search for the other bodies.
Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1956-01-22