May 29, 2013 in Region

Couple recounts fall after bridge collapse

Wife, unable to swim, was pulled out by spouse
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Steel beams are removed from the water in Mount Vernon, Wash., Tuesday following the I-5 bridge collapse over the Skagit River.
(Full-size photo)

Inslee orders economic aid

OLYMPIA – Local businesses affected by the Interstate 5 bridge collapse in Skagit County may benefit from $150,000 that will be used to support marketing and promotion efforts.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee directed that the state Department of Commerce release the money from an economic development account to support the local economy.

The Department of Commerce is working with local partners in Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties to develop a regional media plan to inform the public that area businesses and attractions are open and reachable by alternate routes and ferries.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – One of three people who ended up in the chilly Skagit River after a bridge collapsed in Washington says she can’t swim and credits her husband with saving her life.

Sally and Dan Sligh were driving across the Interstate 5 bridge Thursday when a semitruck clipped a steel truss on the span, causing it to crumple. Their pickup truck plunged into the water, along with one other vehicle.

“I don’t know what happened after that,” Sally Sligh told KING-TV. “I just heard a ‘bong’ and hit my head and my hip.”

She then heard her husband, Dan, asking if she was OK. “When I opened my eyes, we were in the water,” Sally Sligh said.

Her side of the pickup truck started quickly filling with water. Her husband had a dislocated shoulder but still managed to help her to the driver’s side, pull her out of the truck and keep her calm.

“He is my hero,” said Sally Sligh, a hospice nurse. “Without him … maybe I’m dead.”

Sally Sligh was hospitalized overnight after the accident, but she and her husband are now home – and thankful to be alive.

“I think it’s divine intervention,” Dan Sligh said. “It’s impossible for me to believe scientifically that we cleared all of that without some help from somewhere else.”

Both say they are still feeling some aches and pains from the accident, as well as the lasting mental and emotional effects.

“Now I’m scared every time I see bridges,” Sally Sligh said.

Crews pulled the couple’s truck and pieces of steel and pavement from the river Monday. The one other person sent into the water by the bridge collapse also suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The state Transportation Department said the fallen section of bridge has to be removed before final inspections of the spans still standings can begin. The cleanup work is being done carefully due to uncertainty over the stability of the wreckage, the agency said.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced over the weekend that temporary spans for the bridge will be installed across the river by around mid-June, if plans go well.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the bridge collapse has moved underwater.

The National Transportation Safety Board focused its investigation on certain pieces of the bridge beams, the Seattle Times reported.

NTSB officials said they were particularly interested in beam “U4,” the second crossbeam in the southbound direction, which wound up underwater. The extraction must be slowly executed, to avoid damaging evidence.

The rest of the debris can be removed after the NTSB is satisfied, making way for the building of a temporary span.

The collapse fractured one of the major trade and travel corridors on the West Coast. The interstate connects Washington with Canada, which is about an hour north of Mount Vernon, where the bridge buckled.

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