Locals recount Causeway collapse

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

September 15, 2001 — just four days after three American planes were hijacked by terrorists, the Laguna Madre community experienced a personal, devastating loss. In the early hours of the morning the cities of Port Isabel and South Padre Island were abruptly awaken to shouts of, “the bridge, the bridge! There’s a hole in the bridge. People are driving off!”

At approximately 2 a.m the M/V Brown Water V, under the control of Captain Rocky Lee Wilson, was pushing four loaded barges ahead of it when it collided head on with the Queen Isabella Causeway. The collision caused two 80 foot sections of the bridge to collapse. Nine vehicles entered the water after driving through the missing sections of bridge, resulting in eight casualties and three injuries.

Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega remembers the events clearly. “I was in Houston recovering from a kidney transplant when I got the call from my sister that the bridge was collapsing. So close to 9/11 I didn’t know what to think,” he said.

“A few days later I came down to visit and saw how South Padre Island and Port Isabel and Cameron County in general came together, and worked together to provide a shuttle system to get from the Island to the mainland.”

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