Bridge collapse survivor recounts experiences after Baltimore disaster

You’re driving and, without warning, the road drops below you.

There are a few seconds of falling, possibly thinking about family or loved ones, and then a violent impact, where injuries are likely.

Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses on Tuesday in baltimore After a boat strike, those who survived previous bridge collapses recalled their traumatic experiences.

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“Something must be wrong”

Linda Paul, 72, survived a bridge collapse in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007. The Interstate 35W bridge collapsed without warning into the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis during the evening rush hour.

Paul, then 55 and working as a home designer for a local company, drove home in a minivan that doubled as a “store on wheels” filled with fabrics and sample books.She was stuck on the bridge when traffic came to a complete standstill around 6 p.m.

“I remember looking around and thinking something must be wrong,” Paul said. “I looked forward and realized the center section of the bridge was collapsing and knew there was a good chance I would collapse with it. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Police later told her she fell 50 feet down the slope when the bridge’s concrete deck collapsed. She was still inside the pickup when it crashed into wreckage on the river bank.

The concrete block hit her, fractured five of her vertebrae, and crushed her left cheekbone. The collapse killed 13 people and injured 145 others.

“Kind of like Jodi”

Jessie Shelton, 35, a Broadway actor and voice-over artist in New York, was 18 when she survived the disaster. Minnesota bridge collapse. She drove to the Minneapolis Children’s Theater after get off work to attend a show.

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“I started sliding backwards. It felt like a little shock,” she said. “I felt like I was in an amusement park. I remember when I was 18 I was like, ‘Okay, we’ll see what happens.'”

She was then knocked unconscious, suffering a concussion and four broken bones in her back.

“I just remember the last moments before the concussion,” Shelton said. “I don’t remember what happened after that. I woke up in Northern Memorial Hospital with my mom or my best friend standing next to me.”

“There was a big cement block in the back of my car,” she recalled. “It almost hit me. It fell off a sign up there, I think. So it’s a miracle I made it because I couldn’t get out of it because I was so cold.”

FILE – In this Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, photo, vehicles are scattered along the remains of the Interstate 35W bridge connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul after it collapsed into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour. The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge due to a ship strike on March 26, 2024 brought back painful memories for those who had survived previous bridge collapses. (Stacey Bengers/AP Minnesota Daily)

Escape from the hand-cranked window

Gustavo Morales Jr. drives a truck across the Queen Isabella Causeway Port Isabel, Texas On September 15, 2001, a tugboat hit a pillar and part of the bridge fell into the water and into the abyss.

At the time, Morales was managing a restaurant on South Padre Island and was on his way home late at night. He remembers what felt like a rumble or explosion, and then his pickup flew across the collapsed road for several seconds before plunging into the water. His mind was filled with thoughts of his wife, who was about to give birth to their third child.

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“At a thousand miles an hour, everything goes through your head,” he said. “On the way is my wife, my daughters and my son.”

Morales believes wearing a seat belt and being able to manually roll down the windows helped him stay conscious and escape the truck. He remained in the water for about ten minutes while some young men nearby who had witnessed the tugboat hitting the dock helped him and others escape safely. Eight people died that day. Morales is one of three survivors.

Multiple surgeries and trauma

Garrett Ebling, another survivor of the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse, was numb when he learned that six people on the Baltimore bridge were still missing and presumed dead.

“As survivors of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, one of the things we stand by is that we’ve been through this and hope that people don’t have to go through something similar in the future,” Ebling said.

Ebeling, 49, of New Ulm, Minn., endured multiple surgeries, including facial reconstruction, as well as emotional trauma.

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“We don’t know what’s going on in Baltimore,” Ebling said. “But I don’t want to see anyone have to go through this, especially unnecessarily. If this ends up being a preventable accident, then I feel really bad. In my opinion, what happened in Minneapolis was A preventable bridge collapse. If that’s what happened in Baltimore, I think that makes it even more disappointing.”

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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