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March 10, 2014 | by  |  This Day In Vancouver


At 6:15 p.m., thrown off-course by a powerful undertow, the 6,000-ton freighter SS Eurana collides with the Second Narrows Bridge, plowing through half of the fixed span just north of its swing structure and causing more than $10,000 worth of damage.

“With a thunderous crash of steel on steel, she ploughed into the fixed span, cutting off her forward works, her derricks, her great steel mast, her pilot house and chartroom,” reports the Vancouver Province. “She finally came to rest with the east side of the bridge nearly touching her smokestack. Girders on the east side of the span were twisted and crumpled; the footwalk on that side was demolished.”

The Eurana, bound for New York and carrying a cargo of lumber, sustains roughly $25,000 in damage as a result of the collision, heard nearly a mile away—though, miraculously, there are no injuries. It will take work crews nearly two hours to free the Eurana from where it has become wedged under the span, as they consider everything from acetylene torches to dynamite. Mercifully, the ship will be dislodged before any such action is necessary, when, at roughly 8:30 p.m., workers flood the hold and allow the freighter to drift free.

“The ship was in good position, headed right for the bridge,” Captain W. Wingate will insist in an interview with the Evening Sun. “About 400 feet off the bridge she started to sheer. The helm was put hard over and the engines full ahead, the only possible way of straightening her up when it was evident that she was not going to straighten up and would hit the bridge. Both anchors were let go. Both anchors responded and that lessened the impact.”

Despite the Province’s colourful description, the structure is insured against damages. Within the hour, it will be reopened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Ships have collided with the Second Narrows Bridge with alarming regularity since it opened in 1925. Shallow water, unpredictable currents, and its own unfortunate, low-slung structure have led to such frequent traffic delays, it has been nicknamed “The Bridge of Sighs” by Vancouverites. The Eurana accident won’t be the last in the bridge’s history. Two more freighters will collide with the structure in the ensuing three years, and a third—the Pacific Gatherer—will do such significant damage that the bridge will be closed for four years.

In 1960, it will be replaced by the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

IMAGE: The freighter ‘Losmar’ collides with the Second Narrows Bridge, 1930. Image Courtesy of the Vancouver Public Library.

Jesse Donaldson is a journalist and historian whose work has appeared in VICE, The Tyee, subTerrain, and SadMag. If you think THIS is neat, an expanded "This Day In Vancouver", is now available in book form, in bookstores everywhere, and online at Anvil Press.


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