It happened about 7 p.m. Thursday on the north section of the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle and 40 miles south of the Canada border, and disrupted travel in both directions.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis told the Skagit Valley Herald (http://bit.ly/1afx3lU ) the driver works for Mullen Trucking in Alberta. The tractor-trailer, which was marked as an oversize load, was hauling a housing for drilling equipment Vancouver, Wash., he said. The top right front corner of the load struck several trusses on the north end of the bridge, Francis said.
An accident report said the driver was William Scott, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, near Edmonton. He voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test and was not arrested.
Initially, it wasn't clear if the bridge just gave way on its own. But at an overnight news conference, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed it on the too-tall load. The vertical clearance from the roadway to the beam is 14.6 feet.
"For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse," Batiste said.
The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.
Two other vehicles went into the water about 25 feet below as the structure crumbled. Three people were rescued and were recovering Friday.
Traffic could be affected for some time. The bridge is used by an average of 71,000 vehicles a day, so the roadblock will cause a major disruption in trade and tourism between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Washington Transportation Department has set up detours. The closest bridge nearby is mostly used for local traffic between Mount Vernon and Burlington. The department also is recommending detours using Highway 20 and Highway 9 that add tens of miles to a trip. Drivers are urged to avoid the area if possible, especially over the Memorial Day weekend.
Francisco Rodriguez, of Burlington, looked at the damage Thursday evening and realized the area has lost an important transportation link.
"Well, very important, I mean everybody goes through here, everybody goes to Canada, Canadian side. Myself, I drove it every day, twice a day," he said.
Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."
"I hit the brakes and we went off," Sligh told reporters from a hospital, adding he "saw the water approaching ... you hold on as tight as you can."
Sligh, his wife and another man in a different vehicle were dumped into the chilly waters of the Skagit River.
Sligh and his wife were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other man was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said.
Sligh said his shoulder was dislocated in the drop into the water, and he found himself "belly deep in water in the truck." He said he popped his shoulder back in and called out to his wife, who he described as being in shock initially as they waited for rescuers to arrive in boats.
The bridge was inspected twice last year and repairs were made, Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said.
"It's an older bridge that needs a lot of work just like a good number of bridges around the state," she said.
Transportation officials are working on plans for either a temporary or permanent replacement, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigative team.
Jeremiah Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, said he was driving nearby when he glimpsed something out of the corner of his eye and turned to look.
"The bridge just went down, it crashed through the water," he said. "It was really surreal."
Deyerin said the water depth was about 15 feet, and the vehicles half-visible in the water likely were resting on portions of the collapsed bridge.
Crowds of people lined the river to watch the scene unfold.
"It's not something you see every day," said Jimmy O'Connor, the owner of two local pizza restaurants who was driving on another bridge parallel to the one that collapsed. "People were starting to crawl out of their cars."
He said he and his girlfriend were about 400 yards away on the Burlington Bridge when they heard "just a loud bang."
"Then we looked over and saw the bridge was down in the water," he said.
He pulled over and saw three vehicles in the water, including the camping trailer that landed upside-down, he said.
The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database listed it as being "functionally obsolete" — a category meaning that the design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath.
The bridge, which was inspected last August and November, was built in in 1955 and had a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 at its November 2012 inspection, Transportation Department spokesman Noel Brady said Friday. The state average is 80, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state's bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
The bridge was 1,112 feet long and 180 feet wide, with two lanes in each direction, Brady said. There are four spans, or sections, over the water supported by piers. The span on the north side is the one that collapsed. It's a steel truss bridge, meaning it has a boxy steel frame.
The mishap was reminiscent of the August 2007 collapse of an I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured another 145 when it buckled and fell into the Mississippi River during rush-hour.
Sligh was thankful.
His wife was "doing OK" and he had "lots of cuts," he said. "You're kind of pinching yourself and realize you're lucky to be alive."
___ Baker reported from Olympia, Wash. Associated Press writers Chris Grygiel in Seattle and Terry Tang in Phoenix also contributed to this report.
Mount Vernon, WA (ABC) - Three people were sent to the hospital after a portion of an Interstate 5 highway bridge in Mount Vernon, Wash., collapsed Thursday, dumping three vehicles into the water.
Two people rescued from the water were suffering from hypothermia, police said. Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Wash., was expecting two patients taken from the accident, according to Kari Ranten, a spokeswoman. She believed the third patient was transported to another hospital.
Officials were looking into reports of an over-sized load "immediately" causing the collapse, said Travis Phelps of the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol.
"We're looking at the cause being an over-sized, over-height vehicle, striking critical portions of this bridge, causing it to collapse," he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said they will send a team to investigate the collapse.
The collapse occurred on the portion of Interstate 5 over the Skagit River, about two hours north of Seattle.
"N/B and S/B lanes of I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed," Washington State Trooper Mark Francis posted on Twitter. "People and cars in water."
The collapse occurred around 7 p.m. local time and the portion of the bridge that collapsed was four lanes wide, The Associated Press reported. The vehicles plunged about 40 feet from the bridge into the river and that set off a massive rescue operation.
A damaged red car and a damaged pickup truck were visible in the water. Helicopter footage from ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV showed several rescue boats in the Skagit River with several ambulances waiting on the shore.
Xavier Grospe, 62, who lives near the river, told The Associated Press he could see three cars partially submerged in the water with what appeared to be one person per vehicle, with drivers on top of vehicles or sitting on open window openings.
"It doesn't look like anybody's in danger right now," Grospe said.
The bridge was built in 1955, according to the AP, citing federal records.
Clean up efforts will take several days to weeks, according to Phelps. The bridge sees 77,000 cars per day, and Phelps said they are expecting significant congestion until the bridge is fixed.
"We inspect our bridge every two years. We're not going to let anybody drive on a bridge that is deemed unsafe," Phelps said.
The bridge was last inspected in November 2012 and deemed safe, Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Treece told ABC News.
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) - The Boy Scouts of America's National Council has voted to ease a long-standing ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted as Scouts.
Of the local Scout leaders voting at their annual meeting in Texas, more than 60 percent supported the proposal.
Under the proposal drafted by the Scouts' governing board, gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders.
The outcome is unlikely to end a bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy.
Some conservative churches that sponsor Scout units wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted. More liberal Scout leaders - while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth - have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.