Greenwich, CT Bridge Collapse On Interstate, June 1983


Greenwich, Conn. (AP) -- A 100-foot section of an interstate highway bridge collapsed before dawn today, hurling trucks and cars 70 feet into the Mlanus River. Three people were killed and at least three others were critically injured, authorities said.
The three eastbound lanes of the bridge dropped into the river at about 1:30 a.m. on Interstate 95, Connecticut's main highway into New York City some 20 miles to the southwest.
Two tractor-trailer trucks and two cars fell into the water, and Coast Guard and Greenwich police boats searched the river for more motorists who may have been trapped in their cars.
State police spokesman JOHN McLEOD confirmed three people died. In addition, two women and one man were taken to the emergency room of Greenwich Hospital in critical condition.
Authorities said they had no idea why the bridge fell apart. The 100-foot section made a clean break with the rest of the bridge.
The 25-year-old bridge on the Connecticut Turnpike was last inspected in September, state Transportation Commissioner J. WILLIAM BURNS said. "There were problems with the bridge deck, but not with the structure," he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of investigators and Gov. WILLIAM O'NEILL was awakened about 2:30 a.m. and went to the scene.
The accident happened at high tide, when the water is about eight to 10 feet deep, said Lt. JOE ORRICO of the Cos Cob Fire Department.
"The bridge is an old bridge. Many people have talked about it needing work for a long time," ORRICO said. "I guess it looks like something might get done now."
GORDON GILLMAN, who lives next to the bridge, said that in recent weeks it had been making "some squeaking noises," which he had reported to the state Transportation Department.
"They said they had been contacted -- they'd had people call -- and that regular maintenance needed to be done," GILLMAN said.
EMILIO ALVAREZ said he was sitting with friends on his parents' boat in a slip next to the bridge "when I heard an enormous metal crunching sound."
"The splash was incredible. The whole thing was like an explosion," ALVAREZ said. "That's when we saw a car going over. Almost immediately, I heard a man and a woman screaming for help. I tried to call to them, but they seemed to be too far away."
One car stopped 10 feet short of the edge, McLEOD said. WILLIAM ANDERSON, 30, of Knoxville, Tenn., and SHANA KELLY, 20, of Atlanta, were en route to Maine when they saw a tractor-trailer jackknife and disappear from the crest of the bridge. They hit the brakes.
Greenwich Fire Chief JOHN TITSWORTH said one car was submerged 40 feet from the east embankment of Riverside, a section of Greenwich. Another was found 30 feet from the east bank on the shore, according to Cos Cob volunteer firefighter MICHAEL O'CONNOR.
One truck, its cab submerged in the river, rested vertically against a bridge abutment, he said. Another truck was nearby, on its side, partially under water on the east side of the bridge.
The PACES, in a tractor-trailer were rescued by Greenwich police officers using a private boat. MS. WELDON was alone in a car that flew about 50 yards through the air and landed on the river's bank.
She had to be twisted out of the back window of the car, which had landed on its left side.
McLEOD said the westbound section of the highway was intact, but it was closed in both directions and traffic was rerouted.
McLEOD said he had contacted New York State Police to help arrange detours for morning traffic to and from New York City.
The worst bridge collapse in the United States in recent years came when the Silver Bridge, a 1,756-foot span between Kanauga, Ohio, and Point Pleasant, W. Va., fell into the Ohio River on Dec. 15, 1967, killing 46 people. On May 9, 1980, a freighter crashed into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida's Tampa Bay, toppling a 1,400-foot section of the span. Thirty-five of the 36 people thrown into the water died.

Aiken Standard South Carolina 1983-06-28