Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Worst 10 Bridge Collapses in History

Take a look at these horrific bridge collapses that have occurred throughout history:

1. The Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster - Also called the Ashtabula Horror, was the worst train disaster in American history when it occurred in far northeastern Ohio on 29 December 1876 at 7:28 p.m. As The Pacific Express plowed through the snow and crossed a bridge over the Ashtabula River, about 100 yards from the railroad station at Ashtabula, Ohio, the passengers heard a terrible cracking sound. In just seconds, the bridge fractured and the train plunged 70 feet into a watery abyss. The lead locomotive made it across the bridge, while the second locomotive and 11 railcars including two express cars, two baggage cars, one smoking car, two passenger cars and three sleeping cars and a caboose fell into the ravine below, then igniting a raging fire. Of 159 passengers and crew onboard that night, 64 people were injured and 92 were killed or died later from injuries sustained in the crash (48 of the fatalities were unrecognizable or consumed in the flames.)

2. The Tay Bridge Disaster - The original Tay Bridge was constructed in the 19th century by noted railway engineer Thomas Bouch, who received a knighthood following the bridge's completion. It spans two small cities in Scotland. Ulysses S. Grant actually commented that it was "a big bridge for a small city." At approximately 7:15 p.m. on the stormy night of 28 December 1879, the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay at Dundee, taking with them a train, 6 carriages and 75 souls to their fate. Investigators quickly determined that the cylindrical cast iron columns supporting the 13 longest spans of the bridge, each 245 ft long, were of poor quality.

3. Silver Bridge, Ohio River - The Silver Bridge was an eyebar chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and was named for the color of its aluminum paint. The bridge connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio (near Gallipolis, Ohio) over the Ohio River. On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed while it was choked with rush hour traffic, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. Investigation of the wreckage pointed to the cause of the collapse being the failure, due to a small defect, of a single eye-bar in a suspension chain. Odd events in the area over several months before the collapse, including appearances of a "Mothman," led to a 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel. The 2002 "based on a true story" movie of the same name.

4. Sunshine Skyway Bridge - The two-lane bridge was completed in 1954. The southbound span (the one built in 1969) was destroyed on May 9, 1980, when the freighter SS Summit Venture collided with a support column during a storm, sending over 1200 feet of the bridge plummeting into Tampa Bay. The collision caused six automobiles and a Greyhound bus to fall 150 feet, killing 35 people. One man, Wesley MacIntire, survived the fall when his pickup truck landed on the deck of the Summit Venture before falling into the bay. He sued the company that owned the ship, and settled for $175,000 in 1984. He always regretted being the only one to survive the fall[citation needed], and died in 1989. Today, The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, spans Florida's Tampa Bay, and is the world's longest bridge with a cable-stayed main span, with a length of 29,040 feet

5. Schoharie Creek Bridge, Amsterdam, NY - Schoharie Creek in New York flows from the foot of Indian Head in the Catskill Mountains to the Mohawk River. On the morning of April 5, 1987, after 30 years of service, two spans of the New York State Thruway bridge over the Schoharie Creek collapsed. Five vehicles fell into the flooded river, killing ten of the occupants.

6. Hatchie River Bridge, Covington, Tenn. - The winter of 1988-89 was a particularly wet one, with the Hatchie River flowing at flood levels from November 1988 through April 1989. On April 1, 1989, an 85-ft (26-m) section of the northbound (original bridge) lanes collapsed after two pile bents failed and dropped three bridge spans more than 20 ft (6.1 m) into the river. Four automobiles and a tractor trailer fell into the gap and all eight vehicle occupants died.

7. Queen Isabella Causeway, Texas - In the early morning hours of September 15, 2001, four loaded barges crashed into one of the Queen Isabella Causeway's support columns. Three 80-foot sections of the bridge fell into the water, leaving a large gap in the roadway. The collapsed sections were just next to the highest point of the causeway, making it difficult for approaching drivers to notice. Eight people were killed as their cars fell 85 feet into the water. Five vehicles were recovered from the water along with three survivors. The collapse had a significant economic impact on the region since the Causeway is the only road connecting the island to the mainland.

8. Bridge over I-40 in eastern Oklahoma - A 500-foot section of the bridge collapsed in may of 2002 around 7:30 a.m. when a barge going north on the river struck a pylon. At least nine passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers plunged 60 feet into the Arkansas River below. Seven people died in the horrific tragedy. A truck driver whose tractor-trailer plunged into the river said he did something unusual Sunday that probably saved his life. Rodney Tidwell said, "I had my seat belt on for the first time."

9. Arroyo Pasajero Bridges, California - On the evening of March 10, 1995, in soggy Southern California near Coalinga, the twin bridges carrying Interstate 5 over the Arroyo Pasajero collapsed, killing seven people. The sandy-bottomed Arroyo, which is normally dry, was no match for the swiftly flowing floodwaters, and the resulting scour around the bridge foundations led to their failure.

10. Minneapolis Bridge Collapse - As many as 50 vehicles are trapped in the rubble of an interstate bridge collapse. Five people were confirmed dead (expected to rise), and officials said at least 62 people were injured when the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed during the Wednesday evening rush-hour in Minneapolis. Twenty to 30 people were missing.

Two other bridges of interest...

11. The Koror-Babeldaob Bridge - The Koror-Babeldaob bridge (K-B Bridge) was a 790 ft span concrete box girder bridge connecting the two islands. It was built using the cantilever method in the late 1970s. Socio Construction had offered to build the bridge at half the cost of a proven competitive company. Almost immediately, the bridge's durability was questioned and citizens took safety measures such as driving slowly across it or keeping windows open so as to provide an emergency exit in case of collapse. The 18-year old K-B bridge collapsed abruptly and catastrophically on September 26, 1996 and shut off fresh water and electricity between the islands. In addition, the collapse killed two people and injured four more.

12. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge - The original Tacoma Narrow Bridge, at all stages of its short life, was very active in the wind. Its nickname of Galloping Gertie was earned from its vertical motions in even very modest winds. It collapsed on November 7, 1940. No human life was lost in the collapse of the bridge; however, it attracted wide attention at the time and ever since, due in part to its capture on film. The failure of the bridge occurred when a never-before-seen twisting mode occurred, from winds at a mild 40MPH. The bridge's spectacular self-destruction is often used as an object lesson in the necessity to consider both aerodynamics and resonance effects in structural and civil engineering.

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