Olympia, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Transportation filed a $17 million lawsuit to recoup the costs of response and repair after the 2013 over-height vehicle collision that caused a portion of the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate 5 to collapse. The suit, filed in Skagit County Superior Court, names four responsible parties: the truck driver; his employer, Mullen Trucking LP; the pilot-car driver; and the owner of the metal shed being transported, Saxon Energy Services, Inc.
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 Washington State Patrol Major Accident Investigative Team cited the truck driver for negligent driving, stating the bridge collapse resulted from a series of miscalculations, mistakes and errors by the truck driver and his employer, including:
- The truck driver did not know the accurate height of his oversized load, and received a permit for a load two inches lower than the one he carried.
- The truck driver failed to research the route to ensure it could accommodate his over-height load. Had he 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.
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.