‘Something out of a movie.’ Remembering the Mianus River Bridge collapse 40 years ago

A 100-foot section of I-95 over the Mianus River collapsed on June 28, 1983, around 1:30 a.m. Two tractor-trailers and two cars plummeted into the river, killing three people and injuring three more.

Marissa Alter

Jun 28, 2023, 4:33 PM

Updated 289 days ago

Share:

Wednesday marked 40 years since a deadly bridge collapse in Greenwich proved to be a wakeup call for the state about its infrastructure.
A 100-foot section of I-95 over the Mianus River collapsed on June 28, 1983, around 1:30 a.m. Two tractor-trailers and two cars plummeted into the river, killing three people and injuring three more.
“You just felt like, ‘Wow, how could that ever happen?’” recalled Susan Berger Sabreen, who was the first news director for News 12 Connecticut. The station had been on the air for less than a year at the time of the collapse and was the first TV crew at the scene.
“It was pretty exciting and overwhelming both at the same time,” Berger Sabreen shared.
“At that time, I was a young reporter. I was like, ‘This is something out of a movie,’” added News 12 Connecticut anchor Becky Surran, who got her start at the station in 1982. “I see a gaping hole in the Mianus River Bridge, and I thought, ‘We have a national story.’”
“It was surreal,” said Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo. “Even that morning, early that morning, I remember the helicopters going over Greenwich, hovering over Greenwich, for a long time.”
The bridge had suffered a catastrophic failure due to corrosion, and the impacts were far-reaching.
“You had approximately 90,000 cars and trucks going over that bridge. So where did they go? They all had to get off the highway, and they went through these tiny neighborhoods,” said Surran, who remembered reporting on the traffic and noise complaints from people who lived and worked in the area.
“Greenwich was a parking lot as was every other town around here,” agreed Camillo. “It was a nightmare, but people, I remember, were setting up stands and selling things on the Post Road, had little businesses going. Kids were doing that because drivers had no place else to go.”
“This impact on Greenwich was just enormous,” said Berger Sabreen. “And I would say every day for a month a whole block of the newscast was focused on what was going on around the bridge collapse.”
A temporary bridge was up after 25 days, and full repairs came three months later. But the collapse had a lasting impact.
“All the bridges were inspected, and Connecticut found there were other bridges that were in bad shape,” Camillo explained. “That bridge in particular—after it fell, we heard stories. People had heard creaking. Things had fallen off of it.”
“It made the state very seriously reevaluate the safety of its bridges and its roadways,” Surran stated.
The catastrophe forever changed the way the state inspected, funded, and repaired its infrastructure. But the memory of what happened lives on.
“It was something that you rarely see in your lifetime, and you don't forget,” Berger Sabreen said.
“To this day, 40 years later, every time I'm on that bridge, which is every day, I still think of it,” Camillo told News 12.
His cousin, Michael Marano, was a state senator who helped secure money for the repairs. The bridge was later named for him.


More from News 12