Navy Divers Recall Physical, Emotional Challenges in Days After Bridge Collapse

August 01, 2017 08:40 PM

Many have seen the images of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse from the air and from the ground.

But very few have seen it the way divers Noah Gottesman and Brian Bennett did.... from the water.


35W Bridge: 10 Years Later

"It was like a spaghetti field of rebar and debris," Gottesman said. "Getting to where we had to work was hazardous."

Gottesman and Bennett were part of a team of Navy divers brought in to pinpoint a path, then untangle the largest pocket of 20 to 30 cars buried under water - and under pieces of the bridge.

"I would say the greatest feeling was finding a car that was empty," Bennett said.

The Mississippi River was so murky they could only see six inches in front of them. The debris created a dangerous, ever-changing obstacle course. 

But the physical challenges were nothing compared to the mental and emotional ones.

"I think of it every time I drive over a bridge with my little girls in the back seat.  It stays with you," Gottesman said.

"One of the sets of remains we found was of a 22-month-old little girl," Bennett added. "I had just had my first child, so it was extremely hard."

A total of 17 Navy divers responded back in 2007.  It took them more than two weeks to complete the recovery mission.


Ellen Galles

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