Efforts to locate victims missing after a portion of a major bridge
collapsed were suspended Sunday because of safety concerns.
At least five people were killed early Saturday after
four barges slammed into a piling of the Queen Isabella
Causeway, the only link between the small fishing
village of Port Isabel on the mainland and South Padre
Island, a popular tourist destination.
Among the dead was Robert Harris, fire marshal in Port
An unknown number of people were missing after between
five and 10 cars plunged 85 feet into the water. At
least 13 people were pulled from the water. Several of
them were hospitalized.
Two 80-foot spans of the 2.37-mile four-lane causeway,
the state's longest bridge, collapsed after the pre-dawn
crash. A third 80-foot span collapsed Saturday
afternoon, prompting authorities to halt recovery
operations until the structural integrity of the rest of
the causeway could be determined by the Texas Department
Recovery work was not expected to resume until late
Sunday or Monday.
Officials said the incident was unrelated to terrorist
attacks in New York and Washington. The cause of the
crash was under investigation. Officials said the tug
operator passed a sobriety test. None of the coiled
steel and phosphate aboard the barges spilled into the
waterway, officials said.
Telephone service was knocked out to the island. A water
pipe to the island was also severed leaving islanders
with only available supplies available there. Ferry
service was implemented to transport people on the
island to the mainland.
More than 7 million vehicles used the bridge in 1999,
according to state officials.
Padre Island has about 2,000 permanent residents but its
population swells to 200,000 during college Spring
Break. Hotels were 70 percent booked on Saturday when
the crash occurred.
Prior to the accident, officials had considered building
a second causeway, this one from Laguna Vista to the
island. Officials said the second bridge was needed in
case of a hurricane evacuation.
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