POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Saturday, Dec. 16, 1967 special edition of the Point Pleasant Registerreveals a front page that seemed to be unfolding by the minute during a time when getting the news out, wasn’t easy or quick.
The edition recounts eyewitness accounts, including that of Paul Scott, then age 51, of Middleport, Ohio. His account was reported as follows:
“I was in the car. The bridge toppled to one side. We were near the middle of the water going toward Kanauga. I was with J.O. (James) Pullen of Middleport and F.D. (Frederick) Miller of Gallipolis. I don’t know if they made it or not. We work for New York Central. I’m a trainman at Institute, W.Va. The bridge was shaking, once too often. It went to the left, and then to the right, and it never came back, it just kept going. We went down right with the rest of the scrabble. It was a long way. I couldn’t understand why I made it. I didn’t think I could. I thought ‘this is it.’ Then my head popped up (to the surface of the river). I got hold of a barrel but I couldn’t get on top of it. I was hanging on when the boat rescued me. I want to thank them all, especially the group that got us out. I have to get out of the hospital. My daughter (Carol) is getting married on the 30th.”
Both Pullen and Miller, whom Scott was traveling with, were killed in the tragedy.
Another eyewitness interviewed at the time of the collapse was Howard Boggs, then age 24 of Porter, Ohio.
“We (he and his 17-year old wife, Marjorie Evans Boggs, and 18-month old daughter Kristy) were at the top of the bridge, going toward Ohio. It started to shake up and down and that was it. I was stopped in the line of traffic. I don’t know how I got out. I caught hold of something. The City Ice and Fuel boat brought me in. I couldn’t swim.”
Boggs’ wife and daughter were not rescued with him and perished in the disaster.
Another eyewitness interviewed by the Point Pleasant Register was W.M. “Bill” Needham Jr., then 27 of Ashboro, N.C.
“We were stopped on the bridge, about the center. Our Roadway truck was loaded with miscellaneous things. The passenger with me didn’t seem to move at any time. As I pulled up and stopped behind the first Roadway truck; I had stopped dead still; the truck tipped to the right hand side, and the bridge collapsed. It happened so fast the only thing I can recall right here is that I started to pray. We all headed for the water. I could see the steel beams before us. We hit the water and the truck sank like a rock.
“On instinct, I knew the windows were up and there would be an air pocket for awhile. I held my breath and, knowing the door couldn’t be opened with all that pressure, I tried to find the window knob but couldn’t. Then I panicked and knew that was it. When I found out I couldn’t get the window down, I kept reaching. I found one window a half to three-quarters of the way down. I forced it down and that’s how I got this (show his right wrist had been cut). And that’s how I escaped. I didn’t know how far I had to go up. But I could tell the water kept getting lighter. When I got to the top, my back hurt and I reached for a box floating by. But there was not enough buoyancy to hold me up. I saw a larger box that might hold me. I couldn’t move my feet, so I peddled with my hands to the box and then hollered for help. The boat picked me up about 15 minutes later or maybe it was five minutes, but it seemed longer. The box saved my life. I couldn’t move my legs and I couldn’t have lasted too long. I am married and have three kids, ages 6, 8 and 10. I won’t make it home for Christmas but I am happy to be alive. But I’ll participate in a different kind of Christmas this year.”
Also telling the Register his story was Frank Wamsley of Point Pleasant, then 28 years old.
“I was in a James Merry Stone truck near the top of the bridge. We were moving at the time, but traffic in front of us was stopped. The first thing I noticed was that the bridge was leaning to the right and just rolling. We fell and the truck went to the bottom of the river. I don’t know how I got out. For a minute I didn’t think I would. Then I got hold of something, maybe a piece of bridge, and swam to the top. I made it to a barrel of cotton or something. I held on to it. They picked me up. I couldn’t swim to shore, I couldn’t move my legs. I have a wife, Margaret, and two children, ages 4 and 2, and I didn’t think I was going to see them again either. It was a bad experience. If all those trucks (five) hadn’t been there, I don’t think it would’ve gone. Another man was driving, I don’t know his name, we called him ‘Red.’ There were four or five men in the water holding onto stuff. It didn’t take us very long to get down there (into the river) though. We had a load of gravel, about 32,000 pounds. I still don’t know how I got out of there.”
(Editor’s note: This story, with material taken from the OVP archives, also appeared in OVP’s 2017 special edition observing the 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge disaster.)
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