Bridge collapse investigation turns to driver of the pilot car

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - The focus of the investigation into the Skagit River Bridge collapse has turned to the driver of the pilot car leading the oversized load that struck the bridge.

Federal investigators planned to speak with her on Wednesday. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said no information about that interview would be available for release until Thursday at the earliest.

The state does not certify pilot car drivers. That's done by private instructors. A nonprofit called the Evergreen Safety Council trains pilot car instructors and drivers.

Eric Tofte at the council says a pilot car's pole must be between 3 and 6 inches higher than the oversized load. If a pole hits something, the pilot car driver is supposed to immediately notify the truck driver by radio. In terms of liability, Tofte says the state would probably come down on the trucking company, which in turn would likely go after the pilot car company.

The pilot car driver figures out the route using information on the state bridge list and sometimes even drives it ahead of time if the trucking company pays for that service.