It’s been nearly 46 years since the Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed into the Ohio River, leaving 46 people dead.
After the bridge crumpled at sundown amid bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic on Dec. 15, 1967, analysts pinpointed the structure’s failure on a defect in a single link where a small crack had formed at the bearing and had grown through internal corrosion.
What happened that freezing-cold Friday, according to the next day’s The Charleston Gazette: “Witnesses said the bridge bent sharply to the north, spilling its contents into the river, then groaning, went down in slow-motion on top of the sinking vehicles, apparently crushing many of them against the river bottom.”
Built in 1928, the nearly 1,800-foot chain suspension bridge routinely carried a far heavier load than it had been designed for and hadn’t been properly maintained over the years.
In 1969, a new span called the Silver Memorial Bridge opened to traffic. Another legacy of the disaster: New legislation to ensure regular inspections and maintenance of older bridges.