Topeka, KS Bridge Collapse, July 1965


Topeka (AP) -- Two spans of a 68-year-old bridge over the Kansas River collapsed here Friday. At least one car was thrown into the river and the driver was killed.
Several witnesses told police they also saw another car with one or two adults and two children fall as the 160-foot section collapsed. Divers hunted for a second car.
KENNETH ALLEN, 43, was killed. He was pinned in his car, which landed upside down in about five feet of water.
Officials said the second car, if there was one, may be under tons of debris. Cranes were brought to move the huge pieces of stone.
Raymond Rivera, 11, was walking across the bridge when it started to collapse.
"First, I heard a kinda loud noise," he said. "Then I felt a shaking under my feet."
"Up ahead of me about 20 feet I saw a cave-in and then I saw a white-looking car fall in the water and then a yellow one, I think it was -- and as the cars fell I heard someone scream."
"I was awful scared and I turned and ran as fast as I could."
Ironically, a new bridge to replace the old one is under construction a short distance away. It will not be finished before late next year.
Cause of the collapse was not known.
Mayor Charles Wright said high water in recent weeks and vibrations from the driving of piling into the river bed for the new bridge may have weakened the structure. He said officials were not fearful of the old bridge, but if the river had got near flood stage it would probably have been closed.

Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1965-07-03