Survivors, witnesses tell of escapes, rescues at bridge collapse

Mary Logan and her family were on the bridge when it collapsed.
MPR Photo/Annie Baxter

Mary Logan and some of her out-of-town relatives were navigating traffic over the bridge in a Chrysler 300 rental car, on their way to a soccer match, when they noticed something wasn't quite right.

"We heard some noise, the car started to rock, and we went down, I've been told, 40 feet," she says.

Happy to be alive
Chris and Brent Olson survived the collapse, a day before celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary.
MPR Photo/Marisa Helms

One of Logan's relatives describes the sound as a kind of "crunching" noise. It was the bridge collapsing.

Logan says the car banked downward about 60 degrees. She says she and her relatives thought if they tried to get out, they'd surely perish.

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"I just kept thinking, 'we're all going to roll and we're all going to be killed,'" she says.

So they waited. Calmly. Logan's grandson called 911. And after about 15 minutes, some passers-by told Logan and her relatives they had to escape the vehicle. Those strangers helped Logan and the others clamber over cement posts abutting the car.

"They came back and pulled the door open. The cement barrier was up to the car door and they helped us get off there," she explains. "We were afraid to get out because we were afraid we would just go down."

Mary Logan says she's grateful to have left the bridge relatively unscathed.

Driver on the bridge
Melissa Hughes, right, was in her car on the north end of the bridge when it collapsed.
MPR Photo/Charlie Knutson

Kris and Brent Olson had been driving southbound across the bridge and had just passed the University Avenue ramp when, Brent says, they knew something wasn't right.

"All of a sudden," he begins, "it was like the road started moving. A section went down in front of me and a section behind us went down, but ours kind of stayed in the air. It felt like an earthquake."

Kris Olson says the noise of the bridge shearing apart reverberated around them.

"It just rumbled, it just rumbled," she exclaims. "And then things went down and we got out of the car and started running and there was this big duststorm."

The Olsons say they're celebrating their 38th anniversary Thursday, and are well aware of how much more the day will mean after their brush with catastrophe.

"We're going to be able to celebrate it, so life is good, and prayers for the injured."

Derek Cole and his brother survived an even more perilous ride over the bridge. The two teenagers say they had taken their mom's car out, and were mostly sitting in heavy traffic on the I-35W bridge.

"It was stop and go, bumper to bumper, and we heard some rumbling and a crack. The whole thing just kind of collapsed," says Cole.

Derek Cole says the car sank and hit the water, with them in it. At that point, he says, survival instincts kicked in.

"We got out and swam to the part that was still up out of water. We had to swim and get out of the water," Cole says.

The boys believe their car now probably lies at the bottom of the Mississippi. They didn't want to say much more about what they had been through.

"We just want to get out of here," they said, as their ride pulled up and they hurried to get on home.