December 15, 1967, was one of the darkest days in West Virginia history. Sadly, it was only the first of many tragic days that West Virginians would suffer.
The Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant with Gallipolis, Ohio, had opened to traffic in 1928. It was the first bridge in the nation to use an innovative eyebar-link suspension system rather than a traditional wire-cable suspension.
But one of those eyebars had a small, unseen defect. The faulty eyebar eventually cracked and began to corrode, out of sight from the public or bridge inspectors. At about 5 p.m. on December 15, the eyebar failed, setting off a series of other failures that caused the bridge to collapse.
It was rush hour, and the bridge was packed with cars. Thirty-one vehicles plunged into the icy waters of the Ohio River. Twenty-one people survived, but 46 died in the disaster.
The Silver Bridge tragedy led to national changes in how bridges were inspected. At St. Marys—some 100 miles upstream from Point Pleasant—another 40-year-old bridge of the same design was immediately closed and later demolished.