MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A section an Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed on Thursday, sending vehicles and people plunging some 50 feet into the water below, authorities said.
When rescuers arrived, people were sitting on top of their submerged cars, KTLA’s sister station, KCPQ, reported.
The water is about 18 feet deep where the bridge collapse took place.
There were no fatalities, Skagit County authorities said. Three people were pulled from the river and taken to local hospitals.
Two were reportedly in stable condition, while the other had minor injuries and was expected to be released on Thursday night.
The survivor who was released was identified as Dan Sligh, 47. His wife, Sally Sligh, 56, remained in the hospital.
The other injured person was reported to be a 20-year-old man.
The cause of the bridge collapse was still under investigation, but a traffic mishap may have at least weakened the structure, according to police.
“An 18-wheeler commercial motor vehicle with a very large container appears to have struck part of the bridge at some point,” Washington State Trooper Mark Francis told CNN.
He was not sure of the accident occurred before or while the bridge collapsed.
A federal transportation safety team announced early Friday that it will join the investigation into the incident.
The section of the I-5 runs between the Washington cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon. I-5 is a main north-south artery in the northwestern part of the state.
The bridge was first constructed in 1955. The weight of freight crossing over it at one time is limited by law.
Of its 223 bridges, the Federal Highway Administration termed 11 “structurally deficient” in a 2009 listing, meaning that they need repairs.
The I-5 Skagit River bridge was one of 55 placed in the less severe category of “functionally obsolete.”
The designation indicates that the bridge’s design is from another era. In many cases, lanes are much narrower than on newer structures.
Neither of the two categories indicates that a bridge is inherently unsafe, officials said.
Some 77,000 vehicles use the Skagit River bridge daily, according to a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
It was not known how long it would take to replace the bridge, Governor Jay Inslee said at a news conference on Thursday
With Memorial Day Weekend on the horizon, police have asked motorists to avoid the area. Authorities were working on detour routes to minimize the impact on traffic and commerce.