Good morning. Welcome to the Board room of the National Transportation Safety
Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Acting Chairman
of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board Members: Member Robert Sumwalt,
Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener. I would like to recognize the
excellent work of former NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman and our investigative
team on this accident. And finally, my thanks to local law enforcement officers,
who extended exemplary assistance and cooperation.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine
Act, to consider for the first time the report on the Interstate 5 (or I-5)
bridge collapse over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon, Washington, on May 23,
In this accident a south-bound truck-tractor, hauling an oversize load,
struck the bridge and compromised its structure. A span of the bridge collapsed,
falling 38 feet into the Skagit River.
Although both the oversize combination vehicle and its pilot escort vehicle
made it across the bridge, two other vehicles plunged into the river below.
Fortunately, the three occupants of those vehicles suffered only minor injuries.
This investigation turned the Safety Board’s attention to the systems in
place for the safe transportation of oversize loads on our highways.
Much of our economy depends on the safe movement of today’s larger loads
across roads and structures built decades ago or more. Statutory vehicle heights
have increased. If a load exceeds that height, a state may grant an oversize
The safe movement of these loads demands special precautions. And indeed,
there were precautions in place to help ensure that accidents such as this one
did not happen.
The trucking company had a process intended to establish a safe route for the
oversize load to travel. Washington State had a permitting process intended to
ensure that oversize loads travel along safe routes, and that drivers knew the
hazards of the routes they chose.
The state also required a pilot-escort vehicle to lead the way, an
arrangement intended to detect hazards and relay them to the driver of the
Finally, Washington State, like all states, had requirements for vertical
clearance signage, intended to prevent such strikes.
But Washington State’s signage requirement did not apply to this bridge.
Other precautions failed as well. What’s more, the precautions had failed many
times before, both on this bridge and on others, albeit with less serious
consequences. Today, we’ll learn how and why the precautions failed, and
we’ll discuss what changes are needed for future precautions to succeed.
This bridge has been repaired, and it was upgraded to an increased vertical
clearance above all lanes and shoulders.
But many other bridges remain at risk for high load strikes. It is our hope
that this investigation will shed light on ways to protect lives, prevent
injuries, and avoid property damage and road closures in the future.
Now Managing Director Mayer will attend to some housekeeping and introduce
Managing Director Mayer.