On Friday, December 15, 1967, at about 5 p.m., the bridge spanning the Ohio River at Point Pleasant collapsed. The Silver Bridge, so named because it was the first bridge in the area to be painted with aluminum paint, had been designed by the J. E. Greiner Company of Baltimore. It was the first bridge built in the United States using an innovative eyebar-link suspension system rather than wire-cable suspension. The eyebar chain was a series of flat metal links held together using high-strength, heat-treated carbon steel eyebars. These eyebars were of varying lengths and about two inches thick and 12 inches wide, bolted to each other and to vertical suspension bars which descended to support the deck below. The bridge was built by the American Bridge Company of Pittsburgh and opened to traffic on May 19, 1928.
There were 37 vehicles on the bridge with 67 people in them at the time of the collapse. Of these vehicles, 31 fell with the bridge. Twenty-one people escaped injury or were rescued from the river. There was a total of 46 fatalities, including five killed on the Ohio shore. For 16 days federal, state, local, and private organizations conducted extensive rescue and recovery operations.
The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that the cause of the bridge collapse was a ‘‘cleavage fracture in the lower limb of the eye of eyebar 330.’’ The crucial flaw ‘‘was inaccessible to visual inspection,’’ it was stated, and could not have been detected by any known method without disassembly of the eyebar joint. The accident and the resulting National Transportation Safety Board’s report led to the passage of legislation for a national bridge inspection and safety program.
This Article was written by Gerald W. Sutphin
Last Revised on December 10, 2012
Silver Bridge Collapse, after Action Report. Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1968.