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article imageI-5 Skagit River Bridge collapses, cars plunge into water (Video)

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 24, 2013 in Technology
According to the public information officer for the Washington State Patrol, Trooper Mark Francis, the northbound and southbound lanes of the I-5 over the Skagit River, north of Seattle, collapsed Thursday, dumping vehicles and people into the water.
KIRO-TV reports that State Trooper Mark Francis said it was uncertain how many people and vehicles were dumped into the water.
According to The Huffington Post, the 1,111-ft. Skagit River Bridge is a four-lane structure between Burlington and Mt. Vernon, 60 miles north of Seattle with a daily traffic of 71,000 vehicles, according to 2010 statistics.
The bridge was built in 1955.
Trooper Francis said rescue teams are searching for survivors in the water. A man was seen being pulled out while others were sitting on their cars waiting for help. Photos posted online showed a man sitting on top of his car waiting to be rescued, KIRO-TV reports.
AP reports that Xavier Grospe, 62, who lives near the river, said he saw three partially submerged cars in the water with one person sitting on each car.
According to AP, Grospe said: “It doesn't look like anybody’s in danger right now."
A witness, Rita Miller, who works at the River bend RV Park, said: “We heard the terrible noise and thought, ‘What in the world was that?’”
She saw a trailer sticking out of the water. She said: “There’s no truck or anything that you can see that would have been hauling it.”
She explained further that a Navy rescue team was working at the scene with dozens of first responders.
KIRO-TV also reports that a rescue boat from the sheriff's office was searching for people in the water. A large crowd gathered by the riverside to watch. They applauded when the first man was pulled out.
Bart Treece with the Washington State Department of Transportation said the bridge was inspected regularly. He said: "We're checking the maintenance schedule. We wouldn't let anyone drive over something dangerous."
State Patrol Trooper Francis said he had no idea what caused the bridge to collapse.
Meanwhile, all the northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 have been closed and officials have asked drivers to avoid the area. Authorities have advised SR9 as alternate route, ABC News reports.
Traffic is backing up for miles in both directions of the bridge.
AP notes that Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- for state’s bridges. According to the group, more than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete."
The Huffington Post also notes that one in nine of US bridges has been rated as structurally deficient.
UPDATE: Authorities say there were no fatalities or suspected fatalities in the incident. Three people were rescued from the water. They are receiving hospital treatment.
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