30 years later: Witnesses recall Thruway bridge collapse

April 04, 2017 06:24 PM

Wednesday marks 30 years since the Thruway bridge collapse in Montgomery County that killed 10 people. Some of the people on the scene that day frantically waved to stop oncoming drivers from plunging over the edge of the gap.

Many of the people on the scene that day will never forget as they realized something was terribly wrong. The road was gone and they heard the noise of oncoming traffic.

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"All you could see was a big, black line across the Thruway bridge, where the bridge was and the guardrail in the center was just waving in the breeze," recalled Sherry Kline.

Kline, her father, husband and 3-year-old son were among the first on the scene when the bridge collapsed 30 years ago.

Kline’s husband, Phil, later took some of the first photos there, but right away, they had more pressing matters.

"Within a few seconds, we heard the sounds behind us of traffic coming down the Thruway and they were headed towards Fonda from Amsterdam and we just kind of looked at each other and we said, ‘Oh my God. These people don’t know that the bridge is out.’"

They started screaming and waving to stop oncoming drivers who were coming ever closer to driving out over the edge and into the void.

"The tractor-trailer [driver], he was very observant. He slammed the brakes on. It was raining like crazy," recalled Marlin Stanley. "You could see the steam coming off the wheels and he locked them right up and he went right out on the approach to the bridge and backed off of there like crazy."

Ten people died when the Thruway bridge over the Schoharie Creek collapsed on April 5, 1987. Four cars and a tractor-trailer with unaware drivers plunged more than 40-feet down. Thanks to people like Kline and Stanley, there weren’t more causalities. They have been recognized for their efforts.

Kline remembers what one driver said to her 30 years ago as she was going back to her car.

"He just said, ‘Are you the people that were on the bridge, waving and stopping traffic,’ I said, ‘Yes, we were.’ He said, ‘Everything I have and everything I love is in that vehicle. Thank you.’ That really touched me to this day and it still does you know," noted Kline.

From where they were standing, they didn’t know at that point if there efforts had been successful until they went up and saw all of those stopped vehicles on the road to their great relief.


WNYT Staff

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