40th Anniversary of Silver Bridge Collapse

December 15, 2007, is the 40th anniversary of the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River. This year has been one of reflection with regard to this event.

John Keel

John A. Keel (above), who has written about Mothman as well as the suicides and deaths associated with it for decades, had his 1975 book turned into its namesake movie, The Mothman Prophecies, in 2002.

Following is the clip from that motion picture of the dramatic recreation of the Silver Bridge collapse of December 15, 1967, which has been compared to the I-35W Bridge collapse of August 1st, 2007.

Mothman Prophecies

Silver Bridge collapse

In Point Pleasant, West Virginia, just before the I-35W Bridge collapsed on August 1st, what were local residents discussing? As it turns out, the talk was of the sad tragedy that had taken place at the Pomeroy-Mason bridge, Pomeroy, Ohio, just 10 miles from Point Pleasant.

On Sunday, July 29, 2007, around 9:30 p.m., a young man drove his vehicle off the Ohio side of the unfinished portion of the new Pomeroy-Mason bridge currently under construction.

“Traffic on the Ohio River was halted and the Pomeroy-Mason bridge was shut down for an unspecified amount of time,” wrote reporter Beth Sergent, in “Vehicle reportedly driven off unfinished Pomeroy-Mason bridge,” for The Daily Sentinel, Pomeroy, Ohio, July 30, 2007.

The young man who drove his car off the Ohio ramp of the new Pomeroy Mason Bridge currently under construction has been identified as Gerald Baker, 19, Pomeroy, formerly of Coolville, according to lead investigators with the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office.

Baker’s body and vehicle was recovered just after 1 p.m. on Monday, July 30, from the Ohio River.

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Around eight people witnessed the event while sitting on private property next to the Pool People store at what’s known as the Bridge Hill Hangout in Pomeroy. Several of the witnesses said they witnessed the silver sedan drive by them at a normal rate of speed but that changed once it turned onto the new Ohio ramp. Witness Arnold Priddy said the car then began traveling at a high rate of speed, without stopping, and he next heard what was described as “boards breaking” shortly before the car exiting the ramp into the air.

Witnesses then said the car appeared to go 40 feet out over the water, turned slightly to the right and hit the Ohio River, causing a tremendous splash.

Larry Young, a witness to the event, said he and friend Danny Folmer ran over to the river bank in a matter of minutes to attempt to help the victim. Young dove into the water a few times but the car had already sunk.

“In a small town you don’t think you’ll see things like that and don’t want to see it again, because there was a life involved,” Kathy Dailey, one of the witnesses said.

Stephanie Filson, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said there was no damage to the new bridge where Baker allegedly hit an exit pole and left what was described as a “glancing blow.” Filson said it also appears Baker allegedly hit a step ladder and then a concrete barrier that weighs 4,300 pounds, hitting it with such force that it toppled into the water with his vehicle.

“All of the safety precautions were in place in the event a motorist would be on the new bridge,” Filson said. “Never in our wildest dreams would we ever expect this to happen.”

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Many of the witnesses remained shaken, saying they were unable to get much sleep and kept turning the scene over in their heads as if watching a movie. Many expressed their condolences for the family of the young man as well, saying they and Baker were in their prayers. – reporter Beth Sergent, “Victim identified in bridge tragedy,” July 31, 2007, The Daily Sentinel, Pomeroy, Ohio.

For blogs about the I-35W Bridge event, see:

Bridge Collapse: Flashback to 1967;

Bridge Name Game: Reeves/McDaniel;

Beyond Mothman: I-35W Blues; and

The Mothman Prophecies: Silver Bridge Collapse.

Click here for the initial “Internet Reactions to the 35W Bridge Collapse,” by Joe Brown, Autopia, Wired.com, August 2, 2007.

For further information on Mothman, the movie, and the man (John A. Keel), please consult: Mothman and Other Curious Encounters (Third Edition, 2002).