980 truck AP
Three people were pulled from the water of the Skagit River after a section of a bridge over Interstate 5 fell 25 feet into the water Thursday evening. Dan Sligh and his wife were pulled from their pickup truck in the water. (AP Photo/Francisco Rodriguez)

'I hit the brakes and we went off;' survivor shares story of I-5 bridge collapse

Three people were pulled from the water of the Skagit River after a section of a bridge over Interstate 5 fell 25 feet into the water Thursday evening.

Dan Sligh and his wife were two of those saved. The couple, driving in a pickup truck, were heading to a camping trip before a portion of the road in front of them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."

"I hit the brakes and we went off," Sligh told reporters from a hospital, adding he "saw the water approaching [...] you hold on as tight as you can."

Sligh, his wife and another man in a different vehicle were dumped into the chilly waters of the Skagit River.

"When I felt the water rushing in, and I kind of came back to a situation where I was looking around. When you looked at all the carnage of the metal and stuff around you, I assumed that was it at that point. There was no hope. That's what I was thinking," Sligh tells KING 5.

When they first hit the water, Sligh recognized he'd suffered a dislocated shoulder, and said his wife wasn't responding.

"I couldn't see my wife in the passenger seat. I asked her if she was OK, she wasn't responding. I popped my shoulder back in so I could unbuckle everything and get over to her, unbuckled her, pulled her over into my side, which had less water because it was filling up about belly deep inside the truck," says Sligh.

Rescuers were able to pull the three from the water. Sligh and his wife were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other man, Bryce Kenning, was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said.

Sligh says the whole event was like something out of a Hollywood movie, and now after the crash he feels like he rode a Brahma bull.

"Shoulder is sore. I feel like I have whiplash, and just the typical cuts and bruises from a car accident I guess."

Kenning says plunging off the highway was "like a roller coaster where you're not attached to the tracks."

Kenning, of Mount Vernon, was on his way to a pick-up hockey game in Bellingham when the bridge seemed to explode in front of him in a cloud of dust. The 20-year-old slammed the brakes and could see the edge of the pavement, but there was nothing he could do.

The car plunged nose-first into the water. The airbags deployed, and Kenning panicked because he couldn't see and couldn't get his door open. He says the water was flooding into the car and up to his waist when he took a deep breath, pulled the passenger door handle and kicked as hard as he could.

The door opened, and he climbed out and onto the roof to await rescue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

KIRO Radio Staff, Staff report
Straight from the newsdesk.
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