Monday, January 09, 2006

"On the I-40 Bridge"

In the early morning hours of May 26, 2002, a barge ran into the pilings supporting the I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River, the state line between Oklahoma and Arkansas. The center of the bridge collapsed. Five or six vehicles just drove off the edge at seventy miles per hour and disappeared into the river.

Two fishermen were in a boat down below, engrossed in a fishing tournament. Immediately, they called 911 on a cell phone, but even emergency vehicles would take some time. Meanwhile, one after another, cars and trucks plunged off into the water.

One of the fishermen, Alton Wilhoit of Harrah, OK, prayed, “Please, Lord, tell me what we can do to help.” He said, “An idea came to me. Or was it a voice? It was incredibly real. Fire your flare gun.”

The two men had the flare gun because of fishing tournament rules, but the flares were expired. Wilhoit loaded one and prayed, “Lord, make this thing work,” as another truck approached. He said “a red, meteor-like flare shot out and arced a good sixty feet in the air,” landing right in front of an eighteen-wheeler, headed for the edge. The driver slammed on his brakes and jack-knifed to a halt just at the edge, blocking traffic—so it was stopped. Emergency vehicles arrived, and the fishermen helped rescue people.

To be continued—

Wilhoit, Alton. "On the I-40 Bridge." Guideposts (Nov. 2004): 71-74.

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