Twenty-five years ago, the Schoharie Creek Bridge on the Thruway collapsed, killing 10 people. Our Megan Cruz caught up with a former State Police major who was one of the first to respond to the scene that day.
FORT HUNTER, N.Y. -- "There are three things about my career with the State Police that I remember," said John Herritage. "One was the Attica uprising. The other was the Olympics, and this one, the bridge."
It was April 5th, 1987, and at that time, John Herritage had been a major with the New York State Police. He remembers getting a call from his captain that Sunday morning a little after 11 a.m.
"Got a call saying the bridge had collapsed," said Herritage. "Unbelievable. You would never think, who would have ever thought that something like that would happen?"
It had been the portion of the New York State Thruway that extended over the Schoharie Creek in Montgomery County. That morning, snow melt and rains caused the creek to flood, which eventually swept the bridge off its foundation.
Herritage said he'd just driven over it the Friday before.
"When I got here, it was an unimaginable scene - all this steel and concrete and everything in the rushing water," he said.
Cars were also among the debris. Herritage said 10 people died because of the collapse.
"The families were there. At the end of everyday, I tried to sit down with them and let them know what we were doing to try to locate their bodies," he said.
It took some time, but all 10 bodies were recovered. Families were also given some answers. According to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, the bridge came down because it was poorly built and not well maintained. They found its foundation was never secured to the bedrock, just the riverbed, and that the bridge never had an underwater inspection.
Ironically, it had been scheduled for one that year, but it collapsed before it could happen.
Herritage said, "Our infrastructure is old. Hopefully they become a priority to prevent these kinds of tragedies."
The bridge eventually reopened in May 1988. Since then, lessons have been learned. According to the New York State Department of Transportation, it's been made mandatory that all state bridges be inspected every two years. The one there now is scheduled for its routine check-up this coming August.