POINT PLEASANT, WV (WOWK) – It has been 55 years since an evening of rush-hour traffic turned into a night of tragedy along the Ohio River.

On Dec. 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia with Gallipolis and Kanauga, Ohio, collapsed into the freezing Ohio River during rush hour, killing 46 people and injuring at least eight people. The collapse became the deadliest bridge disaster in modern history.

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the bridge, built in 1928, was constructed using steel eyebars. The eyebars supported the bridge from above, however, while many bridges with this design had several chains on either side for additional support, the Silver Bridge had only one chain on each side of the span to hold up the bridge decking, the WVDOT says.

Tracy Brown, P.E., West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) State Bridge Engineer, says the WVDOT remembers the victims of the tragic collapse every anniversary and keeps the event in mind every day while inspecting bridges across the state in an ongoing effort to prevent another tragedy.

“I think about the Silver Bridge every day, even now,” Brown said. “At the West Virginia Division of Highways, every time we train new bridge inspectors, we talk about the Silver Bridge. It is the reason we do what we do. If you’re related to the bridge industry in some way in your career, it’s not just a career or a job. It’s a mission you’re on to keep this from ever happening again.”

Investigators traced the collapse to the failure of a single link in the chain that had a stress crack that the WVDOT says “would have been difficult for inspectors to have spotted.”

The tragedy led to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, which established the National Bridge Inspection Program. Bridge safety inspectors today still use these standards.

“Over the past 50 years, that law has saved countless lives by standardizing bridge inspection processes nationwide,” said Brown.

In 2019, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Plaque was dedicated at the site where the Silver Bridge stood. In 2018, a remembrance mural depicting the bridge was painted on the flood wall behind the plaque.

Each year, the community honors the memories of the victims who lost their lives that night. Officials say the bodies of two of the victims, Kathy Byus and Maxine Turner, were never recovered from the freezing Ohio River.

The 46 people killed in the Silver Bridge Collapse were:

Albert A. Adler, Jr.
J.O. Bennett
Leo Blackman
Kristye Boggs
Margaret Boggs
Hilda Byus

Kathy Byus
Kimberly Byus
Melvin Cantrell
Thomas A. Cantrell
Donna Jean Casey
Cecil Counts
Horace Cremeans
Harold Cundiff
Alonzo Luther Darst

Alma Duff
James Hawkins
Bobby L. Head
Forrest Raymond Higley
Alva B. Lane
Thomas “Bus” Howard Lee
G.H. Mabe
Darlene Mayes
Gerald McMannus
James Richard Maxwell
James F. Meadows
Frederick D. Miller
Ronnie G. Moore
Nora Isabelle Nibert

Darius E. Northup
Leo “Doc” Sanders
Ronald Sims
Charles T. Smith
Oma Mae Smith
Maxine Sturgeon
Denzil Taylor
Glenna Mae Taylor
Robert Eugene Towe

Maxine Turner
Victor William Turner
Marvin Wamsley
Lillian Eleanor Wedge
Paul D. Wedge
James Alfred White