Sligo Creek Bridge Collapse 1932

Predecessor to the current Carroll Avenue bridge over Sligo Creek collapses.
Newspaper article in The Montgomery News-Advocate Wednesday, January 13, 1932

Published by permission of Historic Takoma, Inc. 2003

Sligo Creek Bridge Collapse 1932
View of Takoma Bridge After Collapse

Three Men Killed As Bridge Crashes At Takoma Park

Structure, Being Razed, Collapses and Falls 75 Feet Into Creek

The dead are: Guy L. Cowperthwait of Elkton Md., foreman of the wrecking crew; E. T. Tracy, of 493 Jackson Avenue, Takoma Park, Md., a mechanic, his wife identifying him by means of his keys; Harold Davis, of Media, Pa. Cowperthwait and Tracy were killed instantly. Davis was taken to the Washington Sanitarium, where he died several hours later from internal injuries.

Six men were on the span when it collapsed, but three of them leaped to safety. The other three were buried under masses of concrete, 75 feet below the level of the bridge.

Tried to Run to Safety

Witnesses said that as the bridge started to buckle the men tried to run up the incline to safety. Three were caught and hurled into the creek with the debris. Doctors from the Wahington Sanitarium and Washington Missionary College, both nearby, were the first on the scene and later were joined by the fire rescure squad from Bethesda in digging out the injured man and recovering the bodies of the two dead and one injured.

Described by Witness

F.D.B. Austin, 202 Willow Avenue, Takoma Park, was an eyewitness to the crash.

"The gang had been dynamiting the bridge before lunch," he said, "and immeditately after lunch they began cutting away reinforcments with an acetylene torch."

"Six men were on the bridge when the span gave way. The columns underneath the outer edge of the concrete slab had been removed and the slab, weakened by the cutting of the reinformecments, tipped over. The three men nearest the standing portion of the bridge ran from the falling setion and were able to reach safety before the slab was severed from the rest of the bridge."

Austin explained that about 40 feet of the bridge, at the north end, already had been demolished and that the men were working on the next section.

While attempting to extricate the dead men from the wreckage, Fred Green inhaled a quantity of acetylene gas which had been used to operate the blow torch. His condition was not serious.

Students Aid Removal

Austin summoned the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department and the Kensington Fire Department rescue squad was called later. With the help of students of the Washington Missionary College nearby the firemen were able to extricate the two dead men and Davis from beneath the concrete.

The three workmen on the bridge who escaped were Archie Davis, brother of the injured man; Wellington Rose, Mount Airy, Md., and Edward Dotson, also of Mount Airy.

Oscar Johnson, a student at the Washington Missionary College; W. L. Guthrie, 507 Greenwood Avenue, Takoma Park; Fred Green, George Griffin and George Butterfield, students at the college, helped in the rescue work and had extricated one of the dead men before the firemen arrived.

The dead men were taken to the Rockville undertaking establishment of Warner Pumphrey.

Montgomery County Policeman Charles Barnes notified the contracting firm demolishing the bridge, the Forbes & Murphy Construction Co. of Baltimore, and the partners left immediately for Takoma Park.

The bridge, about 200 feet in length, was being torn down to make way for a new structure.

The contract for demolition of the bridge was awarded to Forbes & Murphy about two weeks ago when they were declared the low bidder at a figure in the neighborhood of $2,000. A three-span bridge will be erected at a cost of $39,000 to replace the old structure.

The new bridge will present a widened thoroughfare for vehicular traffic, with a pedestrian walk on one side. At present a foot bridge to the south of the span accomodates walkers.