CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On the 53rd anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse, the West Virginia Department of Transportation remembers the 46 people killed in the tragedy by working to prevent another disaster.
On Dec. 15, 1967, 46 people were killed when the Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed during rush hour traffic.
“The Silver Bridge is always in the forefront of our minds and it’s our job to make sure no one ever has to go through what those families went through.”Tracy Brown, P.E., State Bridge Engineer
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. One state bridge engineer says learning about the tragedy made an impact on his life.
“The first time I was ever in Point Pleasant was on a family vacation,” said Tracy Brown, P.E., State Bridge Engineer. “My dad told me ‘this is where the Silver Bridge fell, and we lost people we loved.’ It made a huge impact on me that that could happen. 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.”
The DOH keeps the Silver Bridge collapse in mind throughout the year to prevent another tragedy, inspecting 6,958 bridges across the state, from the smallest bridge crossing a creek to landmark structures such as the New River Gorge Bridge, on a schedule to ensure the bridges are able to carry their design loads and remain safe.
“Our bridges are safe,” said Brown. “When we have to post a load rating on a bridge or close a bridge to traffic, we hate it as much as the public does, but we know that the heart of what we do is to keep people safe every time they cross one of our bridges. Our families cross these bridges too, and we know that even when it’s not our family, it’s someone’s family. We won’t let anyone’s family cross a bridge that we wouldn’t let our family cross.”
Last year to mark the anniversary, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Plaque was dedicated at the site where the Silver Bridge stood. A remembrance mural by artist Jesse Corlis depicts the bridge on the flood wall behind the plaque.