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May 31, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Interview with pilot car driver to be rescheduled, NTSB says

By Kate Martin
Skagit Valley Herald / MCT

The National Transportation Safety Board was unable Wednesday to interview the driver of the pilot car of a tractor-trailer that caused the collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge on May 23.

The interview will be rescheduled, NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said yesterday.

The pilot car was leading the tractor-trailer hauling an overheight load on I-5 when the right front corner of the load struck multiple trusses on the bridge, causing one span to collapse into the Skagit River.
When asked if the driver was cooperating with the investigation, Nantel said “we have no reason to expect anything otherwise.”

In a news release late Wednesday, the state Department of Transportation said, “if the truck and pilot car had provided the correct height for the permit and were traveling where they were supposed to, this incident would not have occurred.”

DOT spokesman Travis Phelps said the NTSB and state Transportation do not yet have an official measurement on the height of the load that struck the bridge.

Phelps said it’s the responsibility of the trucking company to determine if the loads will fit under bridges on their routes.

Meanwhile, the NTSB investigative team is focusing its attention on the scene and continues to measure the tractor-trailer’s load, which is warped due to the collision with the bridge. Investigators will compare the measurements of that load with an identical load, which was brought to the area over the weekend.

The tractor-trailer and its load had a state permit for a 15-foot-9-inch height. The bridge’s height at the fog line — the white line on the right of the roadway — was 15-foot-6 inches and drops about another foot as the bridge connects with other support structures.

The tractor-trailer was hauling a drilling equipment housing from Alberta, Canada, to Vancouver, Wash., from where it would be shipped to Alaska.

The NTSB is considering sending some of the bridge structure to Washington, D.C., for further analysis, Nantel said.

Comments | More in General news, Government, Traffic & Transit | Topics: I-5 bridge, NTSB, pole driver

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