Heber Springs, AR Bridge Collapse, Oct 1989
5 DIE AS BRIDGE COLLAPSES.
Heber Springs, Ark. (AP) -- Residents placed flowers at the foot of a collapsed suspension bridge to mourn the five people who died after the wood-decked span plunged 50 feet while being swayed.
Eighteen others were injured in the collapse.
Pedestrians at each end of the 77-year-old bridge ran in an attempt to get off, but as it fell into the Little Red River, people "were just running in the air," said Jennifer Johnson, who was driving to her nearby home when she saw the accident.
Seven people remained hospitalized, with conditions ranging from satisfactory to serious, authorities said.
The 550-foot-long bridge hadn't been open to vehicular traffic since 1972. It had been inspected three times since it was dedicated as a national historic site in 1986, said Cleburne County Judge Harvey Adcock.
The cause of the collapse was under investigation.
At least 30 people were on the bridge Saturday and they were rocking it back and forth when the steel cables snapped, said David Lambert, an engineer for the state Highway and Transportation Department.
There were no signs at either end setting capacity or warning visitors against swinging the bridge. Officials did not believe any warnings were needed, Adcock said.
"If we would have had any inkling that it wasn't safe, we would have had it shut down," Adcock said.
Those on the bridge were attending an annual meeting of the Full Holiness church movement at nearby Prim.
Ms. Johnson said she saw the upstream side buckle. "It just turned upside down and fell into the river," she said.
"One girl said it felt like a dream until she hit the water," said CINDY WATKINS, who had traveled from Oklahoma with her sister, VICKI, for the church outing.
"Everybody was up there laughing and then all of a sudden it screeches and pops. It was real scary."
Another member of the church group, DANIEL RAFFERTY of Seymour, Mo., said he saw the bridge being rocked as he arrived.
"We thought it was kind of fun and is scared some people," Rafferty said.
It "just happened so quickly that no one had a chance to cry for help," he said. "They didn't know what happened. It was pure terror. Arms were flailing. People were panicking. Everyone was trying to save themselves."
As crews worked with cranes and bulldozers to remove the debris, residents brought flowers to lay at the foot of the bridge to remember the victims.
Among the dead was GAYLA CARLTON, the 34-year-old daughter of the host pastor, the Rev. Vernon Carlton of Prim.
Her uncle, TONY CARLTON,had two teen-age daughters on the bridge. Both survived.
"At bedtime last night I told my daughters, 'Let's thank the Lord that y'all made it one more time.' We knelt at the bedside and prayed," CARLTON said. "I have feelings for the others. There's no way I can explain it."
The others killed were:
JASON WILLIAMS, 16, of Muldrow, Okla.
DANA WALTMAN, 11, of Vancleave, Miss.
DAVID SHANE WARREN, 13, of Mayfield, Ky.
CATRINA COTRELL, in her early 20s, of Stratford, Okla.
Casa Grande Dispatch Arizona 1989-10-30