POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (WBOY) — On Dec. 15, 1967, 46 people died in the Silver Bridge collapse in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
At 4:58 p.m., the 2,200-foot bridge that connected Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio gave way and dropped into the freezing water of the Ohio River, taking those on the bridge with it.
And although it is the deadliest bridge collapse in modern history, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Silver Bridge also paved the way for improved safety measures and directly led to improves rules on safety inspections for bridges.
“Over the past 50 years, that law has saved countless lives by standardizing bridge inspection processes nationwide,” said West Virginia Division of Highways State Bridge Engineer Tracy Brown.
A stress crack in a single link of chain was the reason for the collapse, according to the DOT, and it would have been difficult to notice during a routine inspection.
“I think about the Silver Bridge every day, even now,” Brown said. “At the West Virginia Division of Highways, every time we train new bridge inspectors, we talk about the Silver Bridge. It is the reason we do what we do.”
Point Pleasantians have also taken back the tragedy through an annual celebration instead of a memorial. The Mothman Festival takes place every year, recognizing and even celebrating the winged monster that was allegedly seen on the bridge right before its collapse.
West Virginians have used the legend of Mothman as a positive takeaway from the tragedy. In addition to the annual festival, the cryptid inspired a movie—The Mothman Prophecies, a museum and countless West Virginia art pieces, from the Point Pleasant Mothman Statue to specialty sports jerseys.