Silver Bridge Collapse
December 15, 1967 - It was during rush hour on this night that the Silver Bridge collapsed. 46 people died as cars and trucks plunged 100 feet into the near-freezing water of the Ohio River.
The 39-year-old bridge had linked Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio. A single defective eye-bar in the suspension chain was the culprit. The bridge was also carrying much higher loads than its original specs had anticipated.
The lack of redundancy in the construction focused attention on similarly designed bridges. Just upstream, the St. Mary's Bridge was immediately closed and torn down a few years later.
The Silver Bridge collapse figures prominently in John Keel's 1970 book, The Mothman Prophecies, in which a mysterious flying monster makes a series of appearances in the lead up to the disaster. In the years since, the Mothman's connection to the Silver Bridge has spawned a variety of conspiracy theories and legends.
In reality, the tragedy of the Silver Bridge was an all too human story. Safer, more trust-worthy designs were passed up in favor of more affordable and less reliable options. The conventional wisdom of wire cables and chain-link constructions were passed over for the lower bid, which called for a series of bone-shaped steel eye-bars. Each of these was between 45 to 55 feet long. And when after years of stress and fatigue, one of these bones developed a small fracture, the bridge's fate was sealed.
Witnesses and survivors recalled a loud gunshot-like noise. 20 seconds later the bridge was gone.