Deadly Bridge Collapses Through the Decades

Experts say more than a quarter of U.S. bridges are structurally unstable.

ByABC News via logo
August 2, 2007, 7:37 AM

Aug. 2. 2007 — -- They are marvels of steel and concrete, engineering feats that millions of drivers speed across every day.

But Wednesday's collapse of a Minneapolis bridge that left at least four people dead and many more missing is a grim reminder of how fragile these seemingly secure structures can be. More than a dozen major bridges, overpasses and highways have collapsed in the United States and around the world in the last 40 years, killing dozens of motorists.

Earlier this week, a highway overpass under construction in Oroville, Calif., collapsed, crushing a delivery truck and seriously injuring a construction worker who fell 50 feet.

In April, a section of freeway that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge melted and collapsed after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and burst into flames, injuring the truck driver.

Fourteen people, including a 3-year-old girl, were killed in May 2002, when a 500-foot section of a bridge spanning the Arkansas River in Webbers Falls, Okla., collapsed after a barge ran into one of its supports.

In September 2001, Texas' Queen Isabella Causeway gave way after a string of barges driven off course by currents crashed into a bridge support. Eight motorists died when their vehicles plunged 85 feet into the channel. Because the causeway is the only bridge connecting the popular beach destination South Padre Island with the mainland, the disaster had a huge economic impact on the area.

In April 1987, 10 people were killed when a bridge on the New York State Thruway near Amsterdam, N.Y., gave way.

One of America's most deadly bridge breakdowns occurred in 1980, when a 1,000-foot section of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida collapsed after a freighter struck it during a storm. A Greyhound bus and several cars plunged 150 feet into Tampa Bay, killing 35 people.

While the Sunshine Skyway Bridge tragedy may be the worst U.S. bridge accident in recent memory, it was not as deadly as the 1967 Silver Bridge collapse. In December of that year, the eye-bar chain suspension bridge collapsed into the Ohio River at the height of rush hour, carrying 31 vehicles and 46 people with it.