Heber Springs, AR Bridge Collapse, Oct 1989

Heber ARK Bridge before collapse 1.jpg Heber ARK Bridge before collapse 2.jpg Heber ARK bridge before collapse 3.jpg


Heber Springs, Ark. (AP) -- Residents placed flowers at the foot of a collapsed suspension bridge to mourn the five people who died after the wood-decked span plunged 50 feet while being swayed.
Eighteen others were injured in the collapse.
Pedestrians at each end of the 77-year-old bridge ran in an attempt to get off, but as it fell into the Little Red River, people "were just running in the air," said Jennifer Johnson, who was driving to her nearby home when she saw the accident.
Seven people remained hospitalized, with conditions ranging from satisfactory to serious, authorities said.
The 550-foot-long bridge hadn't been open to vehicular traffic since 1972. It had been inspected three times since it was dedicated as a national historic site in 1986, said Cleburne County Judge Harvey Adcock.
The cause of the collapse was under investigation.
At least 30 people were on the bridge Saturday and they were rocking it back and forth when the steel cables snapped, said David Lambert, an engineer for the state Highway and Transportation Department.
There were no signs at either end setting capacity or warning visitors against swinging the bridge. Officials did not believe any warnings were needed, Adcock said.
"If we would have had any inkling that it wasn't safe, we would have had it shut down," Adcock said.
Those on the bridge were attending an annual meeting of the Full Holiness church movement at nearby Prim.
Ms. Johnson said she saw the upstream side buckle. "It just turned upside down and fell into the river," she said.
"One girl said it felt like a dream until she hit the water," said CINDY WATKINS, who had traveled from Oklahoma with her sister, VICKI, for the church outing.
"Everybody was up there laughing and then all of a sudden it screeches and pops. It was real scary."
Another member of the church group, DANIEL RAFFERTY of Seymour, Mo., said he saw the bridge being rocked as he arrived.
"We thought it was kind of fun and is scared some people," Rafferty said.
It "just happened so quickly that no one had a chance to cry for help," he said. "They didn't know what happened. It was pure terror. Arms were flailing. People were panicking. Everyone was trying to save themselves."
As crews worked with cranes and bulldozers to remove the debris, residents brought flowers to lay at the foot of the bridge to remember the victims.
Among the dead was GAYLA CARLTON, the 34-year-old daughter of the host pastor, the Rev. Vernon Carlton of Prim.
Her uncle, TONY CARLTON,had two teen-age daughters on the bridge. Both survived.
"At bedtime last night I told my daughters, 'Let's thank the Lord that y'all made it one more time.' We knelt at the bedside and prayed," CARLTON said. "I have feelings for the others. There's no way I can explain it."
The others killed were:
JASON WILLIAMS, 16, of Muldrow, Okla.
DANA WALTMAN, 11, of Vancleave, Miss.
DAVID SHANE WARREN, 13, of Mayfield, Ky.
CATRINA COTRELL, in her early 20s, of Stratford, Okla.

Casa Grande Dispatch Arizona 1989-10-30


Strange how things work out

Strange how things work out I found a news paper clipping online about this and then this page. I am a nephew to Debbie and can also remember that day, we spent all day at her Parents home in Pauls Valley waiting on the random bits of news that we would get knowing that she, as well as the pastor of our church whom we loved so dearly and his family by all rights should have already been there, and not knowing if everything was ok. like she said cell phones were very uncommon so we relied on a land line and the few times we could get through to someone to ask questions. I can remember the relief when we found out her and the people she was with were fine, but then the sadness when we learned that Katrina had not made it. We knew all the people who perished in the accident and I can remember getting to go back and stand at the edge of where the bridge used to be a few years later and watching the water flow by so peaceful and thinking about our friends who would never be coming home. Through the years I have stayed friends with some of the people who were on the bridge when it fell and made it out alive and although it is now 2013 , 24 years later the ones who didn't make it are still not forgotten.

thank you

thank you so very much for sharing this heart felt experience ...
God Bless

Heber Springs bridge disaster

I remember vividly the day the bridge fell. I was with my own pastor and his family, traveling from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, to the fellowship meeting at Prim. Our plans were to be at Prim about noon that day. However, we overslept and got on the road late. Then we had a blow out flat tire with no spare in the trunk. After taking care of the tire, we pulled into the church parking lot at dusk, a little past church time. 1989 was before the broad use of cell phones so we had no idea what had happened, but we realized quickly that there was no church service taking place. There were people gathered in groups outside the church.

We had planned to take Katrina Cottrell back home with us at the end of the weekend - her home is only a couple of miles away from our pastor's home. We got a couple of different accounts of where Katrina was - that she had gotten hurt but was fine and was being checked out at the hospital. We got to the hospital and no one had seen her. Then we heard the tragic but true news that she had not made it out alive. We found her at the funeral home. We did take her to her Mother in Oklahoma, but far from the plans we had made. She was 18 years old. Her life had just begun, and now it was over.

It is now 2009 and twenty years have passed. Not many days go by that I don't think of my forever young friend.