On June 17th, 1958, at around 3:40 pm, The Second Narrows Bridge in Vancouver collapsed, killing 18 people, and seriously injuring 20 others. The bridge had been under construction at the time, and workers had been labouring 30-40 metres above the water when they reportedly heard a chilling sound, as Span 5 collapsed and tumbled into the inlet, along with seventy-nine workers. Of those who fell, 14 ironworkers died, along with 3 engineers, and a painter.
The original bridge had been completed in 1925, and had been weakened by considerable damage over the years. The bridge had encountered problems with its bascule (the central part which was raised and lowered to allow ships to pass), and it had been hit several times by ships, including by the Eurana in 1927, the Norwich City in 1928, and the Pacific Gatherer in 1930, which had caused considerable damage when the ship got caught underneath and tore the bridge’s central span. In addition, heavy boat traffic had put pressure on the lift, which was raised over 5000 times in 1952 alone.
After the 1958 tragedy, a Royal Commission was held to investigate the reason for the failure of the bridge. They found that there had been an engineering miscalculation on a temporary support. This poor engineering was determined to be partly the fault of John McKibbin, who was one of the workers to die in the collapse.
The original bridge was removed in 1970, but in 1960 a new bridge was built near the site of the old one. In 1994, this bridge was renamed The Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge, to remember the workers who had died in 1958. The collapse is, to date, Vancouver’s worst industrial disaster.