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Interstate bridge section collapses in Washington state, 3 injured

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Three people were rescued after a section of an Interstate 5 bridge north of Seattle in Washington State collapsed at about 9 p.m. Central time on Thursday. Two cars plunged into the Skagit River below, the Washington State Patrol told reporters.

The conditions of the injured were not immediately available. NBC Seattle affiliate KING5 interviewed one survivor, a member of the U.S. Navy. Dan Sligh, 47, said his wife is still in the hospital with some internal bleeding. "I thought we were done," he told KING, recalling water rushing into their car.

Officials said they did not believe there were any others in the river.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it will investigate, the Seattle Times reported.

The cause of the collapse was not immediately available, but witnesses said a semi-truck hit bridge beams before the structure collapsed.

Initial news of the bridge failure was eerily reminiscent of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007. But the scope of that bridge failure was far larger – 84 vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, and 13 were killed and 144 injured.

The Seattle Times reports that I-5 bridge, built in 1955, was inspected twice last year and it underwent some repair, according to state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. The span is classified as a “fracture critical” bridge by the National Bridge Inventory, the newspaper reports. That means that damage to one major structural part can affect the entire bridge, as compared with a bridge that has redundant features that would protect the entire structure, even if one section were damaged, the newspaper reported.

I-5 is the main north-south freeway running the length of the West Coast. Here's more from CNN, including more images of the bridge and an interview with Sligh:

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