Pilot car driver 'horrified' by bridge collapse

AND THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 6, 2013 

— A pilot car driver who led a truck with an oversize load across an Interstate 5 bridge as a section of that bridge collapsed May 23 says she has cooperated in the investigation and did her job properly.

In a statement released Wednesday, Tammy DeTray of Olympia says she takes her job very seriously and "was horrified" by the collapse of a 160-foot bridge section. Pilot car drivers guide large trucks along routes.

At the time of the May 23 accident, DeTray said she was driving with an indicator pole set above the clearance height for the truck "and in compliance with regulations for a pilot car." She says that pole did not touch the bridge. Had it done so, she says she would have warned the truck driver following her.

She also said she was talking on a cellphone with her husband about a work-related matter, using a hands-free device "in complete compliance with the law."

DeTray’s statement did not say which lane the pilot car was in when it crossed the bridge in the southbound direction. A spokesman at the public-relations firm that issued her statement said he did not know.

Authorities have said the bridge segment crumbled when a girder was struck by the truck's cargo. The truck made it off the bridge but two vehicles went into the Skagit River and three people were rescued.

Investigators looked at the pilot vehicle, a dark blue Dodge Ram pickup truck, for the first time Monday. The agency took pictures and measured the telescopic fiberglass pole attached to the vehicle that's used to help determine whether a tall load could potentially strike an overhead object. according to the Skagit Valley Herald. The NTSB, the federal agency charged with probing transportation accidents, said DeTray’s account of her activities in the 72 hours before the accident “did not reveal anything unusual or of significant interest to investigators.”

NTSB investigators and the State Patrol still hope to interview another truck driver who they believe was driving in the left-hand lane, next to the truck that hit the bridge.

The tractor-trailer that struck the bridge was headed from Alberta, Canada to Vancouver, Wash. It had a permit for a 15-foot-9-inch load, which was higher than some parts of the bridge. At the fog line — the white line on the right side of the road — the bridge is 15 feet, 6 inches high, according to the NTSB.

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