Survivor of Skagit Bridge collapse: 'I will never cross again'

Survivor of Skagit Bridge collapse: 'I will never cross again'

OAK HARBOR, Wash. -- The phrase, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it" holds an anxious place in the Sligh family home.

Dan and Sally Sligh say they will never again cross the Skagit River Bridge after what happened to them a year ago May 23rd.

"It literally seems like it was yesterday," said Dan Sligh. "The approach to the bridge, Sally and I chattering back and forth to each other that it looked like the truck's load was too big to get across."

The truck in front of the Oak Harbor couple hit the structure. Dan Sligh recalls the loud boom and puff of dust that preceded his truck's horrifying plunge off the collapsing bridge.

"I remember the fall putting my arm on my wife's chest saying here we go," he said.

Sligh thought those were his final words to his wife Sally.

"I kept yelling for Sally," he said. "The truck had caved down between us so I couldn't physically see her at all."

Chilly 45-degree water filled their crushed truck's cab. It was up to his unconscious wife's mouth. His 28 years of naval search and rescue training kicked in. He made mental lists to keep calm. He put his crunched truck in park, hit the emergency brake, popped back in his dislocated shoulder, unbuckled his wife, moved her to the driver's seat and woke her while he waited 90 minutes to be rescued.

Sligh said to this day, he has trouble sleeping and crossing bridges. He said his wife suffers worse, shaking and panicking when crossing. She describes her panic attacks on every bridge approach.

"Eyes clenched, heavy breathing, talking out loud to herself, we're almost there, we're almost there, let me get past this, let me get past this," she said.

In their small community of Oak Harbor, they can't escape conversations about their close call. Whether at the gas station or grocery store, the couple is constantly approached by strangers asking "Aren't you the bridge people?" Sligh says he understands, but wishes that could end because it makes them repeatedly relive the ordeal.

Once the final National Transportation Safety Board report comes out this summer, the Sigh's Attorney says he'll likely file a negligence lawsuit against 3 major participants. 

"We know that the trucking company and driver should have had some appreciation as far as bridge height compared to height of the load,"  attorney Chris Davis said. "We know that the pilot car driver and her company should have adequately mapped out a safe route for oversized load. And both those entities are arguing the state shares some blame." 

He also said the bridge collapse raises other safety concerns.

"Did the state of Washington have adequate systems in place to prevent this type of situation from happening?" he said.

The state repaired the bridge, but the Sighs find alternate routes.

"I will never cross again, impossible," Dan Sigh said.