Vancouver, BC Bridge Under Construction Collapses, June 1958

Vancouver BC Second Narrows Bridge 6-17-1958.jpg


Vancouver, B. C. (AP) -- Skindivers worked in bright sunlight Wednesday to recover the last of 18 men killed or believed buried in the twisted wreckage of the collapsed Second Narrows Bridge.

Fourteen bodies were in the Vancouver morgue. Two others were located late Tuesday after two sections of the nearly-completed 16 million dollar bridge collapsed into Burrad Inlet, but could not be recovered immediately.

The other men were missing and possibly swept downstream by tidal rips.

Chief Justice SHERWOOD LETT of the British Columbia Supreme Court was to meet with Atty. Gen. ROBERT BONNER to discuss setting up a one-man Royal commission to inquire into the disaster, worst in Vancouver's history.

Col W. G. SWAN, chief designer for the engineering firm that designed the bridge, could give no reason for its collapse. Until the Royal commission turns up information, he said, "we won't know the answer."

It was 3:42 p. m. on a hot, windless afternoon Tuesday when the two end sections of the bridge gave way without warning.
Forty construction workers were on the steel lacework of the pier-supported sections.

Suddenly, with a muted rumble, the temporary front supports of the foremost section crumbled and dropped the jutting end of the bridge 200 feet into the tide-churned inlet separating Vancouver and North Vancouver.

The strain jerked forward the concrete pier holding the section behind, and it nosed downward into the water. The two sections, each about 70 feet long, ended their collapse tilted crazily downward like a sagging W with their front part submerged and rear still on the supports.

An eyewitness, EDWIN LEITCH, said the "frightening roar of the collapse sounded like a continuous peal of thunder lasting about 15 seconds."

A huge crane which had been hoisting steel girders to the top of the bridge toppled and plummeted into the mass of tangled wreckage in the water below.

Some workmen were caught and killed in the tortured, twisted beams. Others were crushed beneath tons of steel and concrete after they dropped into the 40-foot-deep inlet.

One survivor, DON MITCHELL, said after riding the first section down that "everything happened so quickly there was little sensation of fear."

BILL HALLMAN, who was driving over the old Second Narrows Bridge 200 yards downstream, said, "The air was filled with shouts and cries ... The men didn't have a chance."

"When they hit the water I could see some grasp for pieces of driftwood. It appeared about half of the men were trapped under water by the bridge sections. Others were swept away by the current."

The giant two-mile bridge four miles from downtown Vancouver was more than two-thirds finished and was to have been opened for travel in the autumn. Construction work began two years ago.

How long completion of the bridge will be delayed by the disaster probably will not be known for several days.
Provincial Highways Minister P. A. GAGLARDI said the disaster would not cost the province "a nickel more."
The contractors, Dominion Bridge, are fully responsible until the bridge is completed and handed over to the government, he said.