Disasters and Accidents

Disasters and Accidents


The earthquake and tsunami threat to the Northwest from the offshore Cascadia fault was in the news in multiple ways Thursday. Canadian researchers have reconstructed a prehistoric record of great earthquakes on that shared fault. It reconfirms that we're due for another Big One.

Coincidentally in Oregon, tsunami preparedness is getting a renewed look.


Just prior to the I-5 bridge collapse Thursday night north of Seattle, eyewitnesses report an oversized load struck a portion of the bridge’s steel superstructure. That’s the frame that’s key to holding the bridge up.

The I-5 bridge over the Skagit River was built in 1955. It’s a truss style structure. Bridge engineer Stanley Ryter says all that steel above.

"Think of it as a 16 ft tall beam and if any part of that breaks then you lose the ability to carry the load," Ryter says.

Mark Triplett / Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The people overseeing the cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster are learning some valuable lessons from the long-running cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. A Japanese government delegation recently toured some of the southeast Washington site.

In Japan, workers in gloves and masks are grinding down sidewalks and roads, wiping down rooftops and bagging contaminated soil. Now, the problem is where to put all that radioactive waste from Fukushima.

Boston Marathon Runner Races Again In Spokane

May 6, 2013
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Three weeks after the Boston bombings, one of the iconic figures of that tragedy was racing again in Spokane. Bill Iffrig of Lake Stevens, Wash., joined more than 50,000 runners on Sunday for the Bloomsday Run. You might remember the images of Iffrig on the ground immediately following a blast at the Boston marathon.

The 78-year-old runner wore the same orange shirt he'd worn in Boston as he waited for the starting gun in Spokane.

Staff Sgt. Paul Clifford / US Air Force

The fate of the three crew members on board a crashed Air Force tanker is unknown as of Friday afternoon PDT. It's now night time in Kyrgyzstan where the Boeing-built K-C-135 tanker plane went down. Many airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane are deployed to the airfield in Central Asia where the plane took off.

The Associated Press quoted a farmer near the crash scene in rural Kyrgyzstan who said he heard an explosion in the sky. The witness said he looked up and saw fire as the falling jet broke apart in mid-air.

Idaho Mining Family Sues Company For Deadly Cave-In

Apr 15, 2013
Hayley Marek

The family of a silver miner killed in north Idaho has filed a lawsuit against the Hecla Mining Company. The suit claims the mine managers’ attempt to extract more silver caused the cave-in that killed Larry Marek exactly two years ago Monday.

Stan Dammel

The Navy has identified the three aviators who died in a military jet crash Monday in eastern Washington. The fiery crash 50 miles west of Spokane killed all three crew members on board.

Pilot Valerie Delaney of Maryland was 26 years old. Naval flight officer William McIlvaine of Texas was 24. And Alan Patterson from Tennessee, also a naval flight officer, was 34.

Oregon Emergency Management Division

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan served as a wake up call for coastal residents and visitors on our shores. But two years later, it is hard to measure how much that disaster has changed tsunami readiness on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Althea Rizzo is the geologic hazards program coordinator for Oregon Emergency Management. She says she's certain tsunami awareness has increased.

"There have been a number of academic studies over the last 10 to 15 years that have shown that people are becoming much more aware about the earthquake and tsunami hazard here."

Idaho Silver Company Says Mine Is Safer Since Accidents

Feb 19, 2013
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The owner of the troubled Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho hopes new safety upgrades will prevent future accidents. Hecla Mining announced Tuesday that it’s reopened the silver mine in Mullan, Idaho, after a year-long closure.

Hecla President Phil Baker made the announcement at a press conference in Spokane.

“It's nice to be able to give you guys a good news story.”

US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service says the death of a 20-year-old firefighter in Idaho last summer was a “chance” occurrence. The new report is in sharp contrast to the findings of federal workplace safety investigators.

The newly released report determines fire managers did not violate any safety protocols at the fire where Anne Veseth died. She was killed when a 150-foot fire-damaged cedar came crashing down last August. The young firefighter from Moscow, Idaho, was working the Steep Corner Fire in the northwest part of the state.