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Trucker with wide load likely cut off at Skagit bridge

Truckers know the dangers of oversized loads and how to maneuver those big rigs along narrow roadways, such as the I-5 bridge across the Skagit River.

Other drivers might get angry if they don’t understand why a trucker would hog the road approaching a narrow bridge. Puyallup trucker Jim Detwiler has crossed the Skagit River bridge many times and explained how it’s done with an oversized load.

“The normal procedure would be for a trucker to position themselves in both lanes, going down the center to give themselves enough space for clear passage.”

Bridge collapse survivor Dan Sligh said he saw the truck displaying the wide load sign approach the bridge with a load that appeared to be 3 or 4 feet wider than the actual bridge.

“And at the last minute, there was a second semi that came up on the left side, it appeared, like it almost pinned that truck in from being able to come over left,” said Sligh. “At that point, the wide load caught the right side of the bridge.”

A section of the steel bridge crumpled and collapsed, sending two vehicles and three people into the Skagit River, but nobody was killed.

Trucker Detwiler said that scenario makes sense to him, but he’s amazed that professional truckers could allow something like that to happen.

“We typically are pretty cooperative with each other, especially if [we] see an oversize load,” said Detwiler. “The stupidest thing any driver could do would be to suddenly drive up right beside him on a narrow bridge like that when the load is obviously oversize… the person would have to be really not paying attention or extremely reckless to box that truck in.”

The state Department of Transportation says there were 21 bridge-strikes involving trucks last year, 24 in 2011 and 14 in 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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