Stories from the Collapse of the Silver Bridge

Anytime there is a tragedy we all morn the lost of lives. Just as devastating as the recent WTC terrorists attach affected our lives, on December 15, 1967, thirty-four years ago, everyone who had a connection with Point Pleasant and Mason County lives were changed. The stories are still out there about the collapse of the Bridge. I gave you mine on the Bridge page and here are others I received in my email recently. I've also received additional emails since the release of the movie THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and the stories keep coming. I know this page is difficult to read but I believe this is a fitting tribute to those of use who survived. Suzie Crump Web mistress

Mom is very proud of her heritage. She wears the colors of WVU, even though she never attended. A blue and gold Starter jacket, sweatshirts and pennants are proof of her loyalty. She cheers for the Mountaineers and Marshall's Thundering Herd when either play on TV. Those boys are from the hills! We've got to support our own!

She also sings the West Virginia State Song every time she crosses the border into her beloved state. I suspect that this particular day was no different "West Virginia Hills" was written by Ellen Kind and H E Engle. I know the first verse and the chorus by heart. Not because I learned it in school, but because Mom sang it every time we drove into West Virginia.

Mom left Columbus, Ohio a little after noon on 15 December 1967. It was a Friday and she was bound for Jackson County, WV to spend a weekend with her family. She had packed the night before. Her son was living with grandparents at the time. Her husband had died in July and she was in Columbus, preparing to be the breadwinner.

...Mom was dismissed from nursing school early that day. At about 3 PM, she drove across the Ohio River into West Virginia. US 35 from Gallia County, OH over into Mason County, WV, was the route she always took. She enjoyed the scenery. As usual, she crossed the bridge at Kanauga and drove over into Point Pleasant. The Silver Bridge was as eye-bar suspension bridge that had gotten its name from the shiny silver paint that covered it. It had been built in 1928 and was originally a toll bridge.

As she drove, her thoughts were probably on Christmas, her first in eleven years without a husband. It was less that two weeks away and would be a lonely one. She was also thinking of getting her own apartment. She was living with her Uncle & Aunt, Charles & Frances Walker, while she attended nursing school. Her son would live with her soon. His 5th grade year would be spent attending Kingswood Elementary...The family unit would be together again.

My grandpa Obert Coleman stared at the TV...Grandpa only watched a few shows...But on this day he seemed a little more attentive, as he sat and watched the nightly news from his usual place on the couch. Mom stood to his right, in the doorway between the living room and dining room. She held a hand over her mouth. There were thirty-seven vehicles on the Silver Bridge when it collapsed at 5:04 PM. Thirty-one of those vehicles, containing sixty-four people, fell into the Ohio River or onto the Ohio Shore. Of the sixty-four, forty-six died. Two of the bodies were never found. Nine others were seriously injured. There were people on the bridge that day from Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina and Virginia.

I tried to think optimistically. Cars could float for a while. People could swim to shore. Grandpa Coleman reminded me of the water temperate and about the weight of the steel that fell from above. I considered it a miracle that 18 survived. I remember one lady, who was interviewed a short time after she saw the tragedy unfold in her rearview mirror. She had just made it across. She said it looked like the cars behind her were all driving in reverse. She thought it was a dream, but instead witnessed a nightmare - cars falling from the sky and plunging into the cold December waters of the Ohio River.

I recently scanned the list of dead for people whose surnames I research. I found ...Maxine Srturgeon of Kanauga, Ohio. That is one of my wife's family names.

One name grabbed me by the lapels and would not let me go. It caught my attention and kept it. His was not a surname that I study. James Hawkins lived in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He may have been a trucker, may have drove the big rigs. But in my mind, he was in a car and had left work or school in Columbus to visit family in West Virginia, like my mother. They drove the same area on the same day. They traveled the same route. Whatever the scenario, she made it across the bridge. He didn't. Timing is everything.

Mom could have been on that bridge when it fell, had she left Columbus at her usual time or stayed around to run a few errands. I was very fortunate. I had lost Dad earlier in the year, 1967 could have been known as the year that orphaned me. Many families weren't as lucky.

After the collapse of the Silver Bridge, we were forced to find alternate routes into West Virginia...It was a couple of years before they built a new bridge in the Point Pleasant area. When they did, we stopped and looked at the rusting skeletal remains of a bridge once so bright with aluminum paint. There was a short silence, a brief prelude to Mom's boastful rendition of the state song. She is proud to be called a hillbilly or a ridge runner and is most grateful for a second chance to roam her "West Virginia Hills".

Oh, the West Virginia hills! How majestic and how grand,
With their summits bathed in glory, like our Prince Emmanuel's land!
Is it any wonder then, that my heart with rapture thrills,
As I stand once more with loved ones on those West Virginia hills?

Oh, those hills, beautiful hills. How I love the West Virginia Hills!
If o'er sea o'er land I roam, still I think of happy home,
and my friends among the West Virginia Hills.

You tell 'em Mom!
Mike Peters

My parents were living in Proctorville, OH, and were driving to my grandparent's home in Ripley. They had to stop by a friend's house in Huntington, and decided to take Rt 2 instead of their usual route, RT 7 and across. As they closed in on Point Plesant, they started running into traffic. The radio announced that the bridge had just fallen. If my parents had not stopped in Huntington, ot had not taken RT 2, then I may not have been here. My father swears to that.

Love And Blessings,
Kayanna Rose aka Kristal

Couldn't sleep tonight. I found your website....and thank-you for it. I am in Tifton GA and a long way from my home of Point Pleasant.

I too, am still here by the grace of God. My story of that day:

I was in the 5th grade and my brother Eric was pre-school. On the evening of 12-15-67 we were going downtown with my father to cross the bridge to Tiny's (store at the end of the bridge on the Ohio side) to get a Christmas tree. We were coming down old main street towards the bridge and as we got close to the intersection we saw people running towards the bridge and didn't know why. I looked to my right and said to Dad "the bridge is gone". It had to have just happened, because we had no trouble proceeding thru the
intersection into the downtown area. We had missed it by only minutes I'm sure.

My father parked the car across from the post office and made my brother and I stay in the locked car until he returned. He had walked behind the flood wall to investigate. It was quite awhile before he returned to the car and we went home. I'm sure my mother would have been worried. I also remember the phone lines all being busy that night---so many phone calls and relatives calling to make sure family was okay.

When we returned to school on Monday morning Dec. 18th we were saddened to learn that one of my 5th grade classmates, Kathy Byus, had been a victim of the bridge collapse. She may have spelled her name with a "C". She was a beautiful little girl, kind and generous, very smiley. We were all proud to have known her. Her mother always picked her up for lunch, from Ordnance Elementary School, and she would stop by Fruth's Pharmacy on the way back and pick up candy (everybody placed orders with her). WebMistress Note: Kathy Byus is one of the people who is still missing from the bridge collapse.

Our teacher, Mrs. Jordan, removed Kathy's desk from the classroom and put it out in the hall. She could not continue with class without seeing the empty desk and crying.

Kathy had a baby sister named Kimberly that she was so very proud of. Kathy, her mom Hilda, and sister Kimberly were all together in the car on the bridge. I always heard that when their car was removed the mother was still holding the baby and there was a hole in the windshield on the passenger side of the front seat where Kathy would have been (unsure of the source of that info).

Unfortunately, Mr. Byus lost his entire family that day. I often wondered what happened to him, and prayed that he was able to live again. Do you know what his first name is or anything about him?

Well, just wanted to give you another story. Appreciate what you have out there.

Martha Johnson McNemar
Tifton GA

My husband John and I and our oldest 2 sons who were 4 and 2 years old, had left Columbus, Ohio where we live and was on the way to Point Pleasant to visit relatives there before going back to Gallipolis where my husband's parents lived. We were 1 mile from the bridge when it fell. Our youngest son had spilled something in the car and we had pulled off to clean it up. My parents were from Point Pleasant as well as 4 of my 5 brothers and my sister. One brother and I were born in Columbus, Ohio. Many of my relatives still live in Point Pleasant.

Also My aunt Cloe and most of her children had just left Tiny Burris' supermarket at the foot of the bridge on the Ohio side. Just as they had pulled to the bridge my aunt remembered she had forgotten something and her son Joe who was driving made a U-turn and started back to the store and the bridge fell.

The husband of a friend of mine was on the bridge when it fell. He felt a jolt and blew his horn to get traffic to move, when it didn't he jumped out of his car and run the rest of the way off the bridge as it fell behind him.

E Notter

Silver Bridge


2002-2005 Copyright and Maintained by Suzie Crump

Last Update January 15, 2005