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May 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Crews begin removing vehicles, debris from Skagit River bridge collapse

The pickup that went crash down with the bridge collapsed last week is seen being lifted from the debris late this morning. (Photo  / Washington State Department of Transportation)

The pickup that went crashing down when the bridge collapsed last week is seen being lifted from the debris late this morning. (Photo / Washington State Department of Transportation)

A travel trailer that fell into the Skagit River when the Interstate 5 bridge collapsed Thursday has been removed from the river — the first major retrieval as work got underway Sunday night removing the mass of tangled steel and debris.

Barges transporting cranes and excavators — which have mounted hydraulic shears to cut damaged beams, steel and concrete — began arriving at the collapsed bridge Sunday evening. The goal is to retrieve and remove debris so the NTSB can complete its investigation and so work on the temporary span to replace the collapsed bridge can begin as soon as possible.

Here's another view of the I-5 bridge that collapsed over the Skagit River last week. Salvage crews and investigators have begun work at the site. s(Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

Here’s another view of the I-5 bridge that collapsed over the Skagit River last week. Salvage crews and investigators have begun work at the site. (Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times)

By Monday morning, crews had removed the little camper trailer. That trailer had been towed by a pickup being driven by Dan and Sally Sligh of Oak Harbor, both of whom survived with minor injuries in their plunge into the river.

A third driver, Bryce Kenning of Mount Vernon, who had been driving an orange compact SUV, also survived the plunge.

Crews on Monday morning were working to get the pickup and SUV out of the water onto a containment area on the banks of the river.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the collapse, is interested in examining the SUV and pickup. There are also some critical pieces of the beams that the NTSB wants to look at, said Dave
Chesson, a spokesman with the state transportation department.

“We’ll be removing those pieces, if we can, first, and bringing them onto the shore to be examined,” Chesson said.

Once that’s done and the NTSB is satisfied, then the rest of the debris can be cleared out, he said.

The state transportation department is also taking the opportunity to do a thorough examination of the bridge, including any collapse-related damage but also any other repairs that might be needed such as potholes.

“This is our opportunity to go over the bridge with a fine tooth comb while there’s no traffic on it,” Chesson said.

Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: collapse, I-5 bridge, Skagit River

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