Port Isabel, TX Barge Rams Bridge, Sep 2001
BRIDGE COLLAPSE KILLS AT LEAST 5.
Port Isabel, Texas (AP) - A group of barges smashed a 160-foot section out of the only bridge leading to popular South Padre Island early Saturday and at least five people died after their vehicles plunged into the water 85 feet below.
An unknown number of people were missing. Thirteen were rescued from the Laguna Madre, part of the Intracoastal Waterway shipping route along the Gulf Coast and two were hospitalized.
Rhonda Fife stood near the four-lane bridge Saturday afternoon and said she had not heard from her 18-year-old daughter, Tiffany, since she went to the island with friends late Friday.
"Nobody called and they always call," said Fife, of Harlinpen, her voice trembling.
Michael Burke, father of two sons who had gone out with Tiffany, anxiously waited with Fife.
"I just want to know where my kids are at. I hope they're all right and just can't call me," Burke said.
Five vehicles were located in the 50-foot-deep water by early afternoon and divers took pictures of their license plates for identification, said Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Carsu.
Crews had pulled two vehicles out of the water by mid afternoon when the piling damaged by the barges toppled into the water. No injuries were reported.
"I don't know, I just ran and heard a roar under my feet. I felt a shake, said Faustino Ramirez, a worker who was on the bridge when the piling fell over.
The Coast Guard was notified around 2:30 a.m. that the tug Brown Water V and its four barges, loaded with coiled steel and phosphate, had struck the 2.37 mile long span. None of the cargo spilled.
The tug operator was questioned and passed a sobriety test, officials said.
The crash dropped two adjacent 80-foot segments of the Queen Isabella Causeway into the channel near the center of the span, which stands 85 feet above the water at its highest point.
Michael Lorber said he slammed on his brakes on the bridge while a friend's car in front of him plunged into the water. His friend was among the missing.
"They should have 50 boats out there. Why isn't there a million boats out there?" said Matt Pechacek, a friend of Lorber and the missing man.
Index-Journal Greenwood South Carolina 2001-09-16
List of the Casualties:
ROBERT HARRIS, 46, Port Isabel.
HECTOR MARTINEZ, 32, Port Isabel.
BARRY WELCH, 53, Port Isabel.
CHEALSA WELCH, 23, Port Isabel.
JULIO MIRELES, 23, Los Fresnas.
ROBIN LEAVELL, 29, Mercedes.
STVAN RIVAS, 22, Humble.
GASPAR HINOJOSA, 52, Kinsville.