The nation's bridges and overpasses are proving particularly vulnerable to having their support systems knocked out, with a highway overpass in Missouri becoming the latest victim, reports the AP. The span partially collapsed yesterday after a train derailment sent rail cars smashing into support columns, causing two 40-foot sections to buckle with two cars on the overpass. "You're driving down the road and the next thing you know the bridge is not there," says the sheriff in Scott County. "It could have been really bad." The 15-year-old overpass was structurally sound, but simply couldn't withstand the impact, he said. Seven people were injured, none seriously.
The Missouri accident comes as the NTSB is warning that a similar bridge collapse in Washington needs to serve as a wake-up call. "This is a really significant event and we need to learn from it, not just in Washington but around the country," says an investigator. She says the NTSB expects to spend about 10 days investigating the collapse, with an eye on whether it could be replicated at structures nationwide. "At the end of the day it's about preventing an accident like this," she says. (Read more bridge collapse stories.)