1939 accident here similar to tragedy in Oklahoma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2002

[05/29/02]With rivers all around it, Vicksburg has known bridge tragedies in its past the worst of which was 63 years and two months ago today. At least 13 cars fell from U.S. 80 into Clear Creek, and 17 people died on the night of March 29, 1939.

It was before anyone at the Department of Transportation had even conceived of building Interstate 20. U.S. 80 was the most-traveled roadway through Vicksburg and linked this city to the state capital.

That evening, during heavy rains and fog, part of the roadway collapsed into Clear Creek, which has since given its name to a county recreation area and golf course at Bovina.

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Vehicles driving down the dark highway plunged 30 feet into the swirling water below.

“Clear Creek was the worst highway disaster in the history of Mississippi when it occurred,” wrote former Managing Editor Charlie Faulk in a 40th anniversary story for The Vicksburg Evening Post. “It still stands as the number one with the state highway patrol.”

The creek drained a large area in eastern Warren County and the U.S. 80 bridge was about 200 yards from the Big Black River at the point where the highway crossed.

Faulk, who covered the story, wrote that debris had gathered against a pier on the bridge before it gave way.

George Bragg of Vicksburg, now deceased, survived the event. Bragg told Faulk that he and his father swam out of the creek to safety after their vehicle fell. He said there was no sign of a break in the road.

“It all happened in a split second,” Bragg said. “The next thing I knew, we were in the water.”

As in Oklahoma, the search for automobiles lasted for days after the accident.rward