By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Though the skies were gray and the threat of rain hung over the air, nothing could keep residents and leaders of Port Isabel and South Padre Island from marking the 17th anniversary of the Queen Isabella Causeway collapse.
It was a small and somber ceremony at the foot of the bridge in Port Isabel Saturday morning. Awnings covered the podium and seating area to stave off any potential rain, but the skies held onto the waters which had been drenching the area throughout the week.
“I know many of you will remember very well that day,” said Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema, who served as the master of ceremonies.
He had only recently returned home from work when he began receiving numerous phone calls on that night — Sept. 15, 2001. “Look out your window,” the callers told him. And that’s when he realized what had happened.
The accident occurred in the early morning hours — sometime near 2 a.m. that Friday. A barge pilot attempting to navigate four tethered barges through the Intracoastal Waterway missed the pass through the center of the bridge, and instead struck its support pilings.
The impact caused two sections of the bridge’s concrete span to plunge nearly some 80 feet into the Laguna Madre below. A third section fell into the water a few days later.
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