ROADS/BRIDGES: Washington DOT files lawsuit over 2013 Skagit River Bridge collapse

Feb. 4, 2015

Suit will attempt to recoup cost burden of response and repair after an over-height collision caused collapse

On Feb. 3, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) filed a $17 million lawsuit in Skagit County Superior Court over costs associated with the 2013 Skagit River Bridge collapse on I-5.

On May 23, 2013, a large tractor-trailer combination with an over-height load slammed into multiple overhead braces of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge. The force of those strikes severely damaged the bridge and forced its collapse into the river. Two vehicles also fell into the water. The suit names five responsible parties: the truck driver; his employer, Mullen Trucking LP; the pilot-car driver; pilot-car company G&T Crawlers Service; and the owner of the metal shed being transported, Saxon Energy Services, Inc.

On site at the time of the collision and collapse, the Washington State Patrol Major Accident Investigative Team cited the truck driver for negligent driving, finding that the bridge collapse resulted from a series of miscalculations, mistakes and errors by the truck driver and his employer, including:

• Ignorance on the part of the truck driver as to the accurate height of his oversized load; the driver held a permit for a load two inches lower than the one he carried.

• Failure to research his route to ensure the route could accommodate the over-height load. The suit claims that had the driver taken the advanced safety steps required of all drivers who haul oversized loads, he would have known the left southbound lane of the bridge provided adequate vertical clearance for the load.

• The pilot-car driver was on the phone as she crossed the bridge and did not notify the truck driver of the height clearance pole striking the bridge.

• The truck driver was following the pilot car too closely and would not have been able to stop in time even if the pilot-car driver had notified him of the pole strikes.

Moreover, the suit claims that as owner of the shed that struck the bridge, Saxon Energy Services, Inc. also is financially responsible for the catastrophic damage caused by this collision, according to state law.

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