Swimming For It

What will probably only be ever a curious footnote to the Interstate 35W bridge failure is the remarkable disparity between fatalities – five so far, of which only one, as far as I know, is a drowning, and eight or so people missing – and the number of vehicles involved, which is said to be around one-hundred. Of those, perhaps half are in the water, and maybe half again are completely submerged; call it twenty to twenty-five vehicles which sank as a result of the bridge collapse. Given the commonly-accepted and relatively well understood difficulty of escaping from a vehicle in water (as demonstrated on an episode of Mythbusters not that long ago), that at least two-thirds of the people whose vehicles landed or otherwise wound up in open water were able to escape safely seems quite remarkable.

No doubt, the very shallow river – just eight to fourteen feet deep – helped somewhat, but the results definately seem to challenge the assumption that drowning is inevitable when your car enters the water.

Of the eight missing, though only two – a mother and daughter – have, as far as I’m aware, been publicly identified, one other was a construction worker, suggesting a maximum of six submerged vehicles with victims. Assuming all eight missing are victims – which, as time goes by, seems more and more likely – the final toll of thirteen dead would amount to just over a ten-percent fatality rate, which seems amazingly low for a disaster of such scope; even adjusted to exclude people on approach bridges, the fatality rate for people who fell sixty to seventy feet into the river would seem to be perhaps twenty percent. Had the bridge collapsed in the middle of winter, the outcome would doubtless be much, much worse…

Published in: General | on August 3rd, 2007| Comments Off on Swimming For It

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