1983 Was a Horribly Tragic Year For Car Wrecks on Interstate 95 in CT
Every Tuesday morning on the Ethan and Lou Show, we welcome our friend Mike Allen into the studio for a segment we call "The Place You Live." Allen is I-95's former News Director, a gifted communicator and a diligent researcher. During the segment, Mike shares his research and tells us a true story about our local area.
This week, the stories happened to be tragic ones, about two car accidents that took place on Interstate 95 in CT within five months of one another in 1983. They both have become cautionary tales, and sobering reminders that a crumbling transpiration infrastructure is nothing to ignore.
This is some of the information Mike shared when we did our most recent "The Place You Live" segment on Tuesday (9/28/21).
The first car accident happened on January 19, 1983 in the Northbound lanes of I-95, just North of Stratford where the old toll plaza was. It happened just prior to 3 pm as the traffic began to build, three cars were in the "Exact Change" only line of the toll plaza where no trucks are permitted. One car paid its toll and pulled out of the plaza, leaving two behind.
This is when a tractor trailer carrying yams and sweet potatoes collided into the two cars at the toll plaza, it's estimated the truck was traveling at 60 mph at the time. The collision caused a terrible fire, created a debris field and a third car collided into the rear of the tractor trailer.
It's at this point that one of the toll booth employees named Joe Leslie was able to rescue a child from one of the cars, tragically that child died later. Six other people lost their lives that day as a result of the wreck, but the driver Charles Klutz of North Carolina survived.
While mechanical failures were to blame for the vehicle not slowing down or stopping, it was determined Klutz was going too fast entering the toll plaza area. In 1984, he was convicted on seven counts of negligent homicide, he was sentenced to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. Klutz appealed the ruling and lost the appeal.
The incident caused a public outcry over the danger of tolls. Two years after the wreck, 8 toll plazas had been eliminated in CT and by 1990, all toll plazas were removed from the Nutmeg State.
The second incident on Interstate 95 in 1983 was a collapsed bridge that killed 3 people but could've easily killed many more, if not for the time it occurred. It took place at 1:30 am on June 28, 1983 on I-95 North in Greenwich.
While two tractor trailers were crossing a bridge over the Mianus River, the bridge collapsed taking the trucks with it. Two cars, with not enough time to stop, followed the tractor trailers off the edge. The bridge did not have a name at the time of the accident but is now known as the Michael Morano Bridge, named for a State Senator.
The drop was 70 feet to the river below, the trucks went into the river while the cars landed on the river banks. Between the four vehicles, there were six people that went off the edge, three miraculously survived.
The cause of the bridge collapse turned out to be a clogged bridge drain. The bridge was built in 1958 with what is called a Pin and Hangar system. The hangars held the roadway in place, that rested on pins, while the pins had end caps to keep the hangars from slipping off the pins.
One of the end caps was eroded by water and silt over time, causing it to rust because the water was not draining where it should have. When the bridge was installed, it had to be paved, and was. The drain pipes were intentionally paved over, and were supposed to be unclogged. The drains were never unclogged and the water needed somewhere else to go.
Had the drains on the bridge been unclogged, the water and debris should have run out of the drains and into the river. Instead the runoff corroded one of the end caps, when it failed, the other pins and hangars were overcompensating for the weight.
There was even a warning from nearby residents about the bridge. Early in June, neighbors reported hearing loud vibrations coming from the bridge, but their reports fell on deaf ears.
Although the Southbound bridge did not collapse at the same spot, it was closed along with the Northbound Bridge that did. Traffic for that area had to be diverted for 6 months onto Route 1, The Merritt, I-84, 684, 287, Strickland Road and East Putnam Ave. It was a traffic disaster that impacted much of the state. The collapse needlessly killed three people, made commuting a nightmare and took $20 million to fix.
Join us every Tuesday when Mike Allen steps into the studio for "The Place You Live" at 8:20 & 8:50 am on I-95 (WRKI) 95.1 FM, on the I-95 Rock Mobile App and on i95rock.com