Families isolated after bridge collapses near Cle Elum

CLE ELUM, Wash. — Crews are working to remove a garbage truck that fell into the Yakima River after a bridge collapsed near Cle Elum, leaving about a dozen residents without water or a way to get their vehicles out.

The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office said they don’t know what exactly caused the privately-owned bridge located on McElroy Road to collapse as the truck attempted to cross it on Monday, but are working to ensure residents have access to emergency services.

“The problem was that that was the only way in and out for about 30 residences or cabins inside,” inspector Chris Whitsett said. “Fortunately, many of those are secondary homes or just vacation cabins.”

Whitsett said first responders took a backcountry route on ATVs to contact the locals and were able to evacuate one family and a delivery driver who was stranded in the area after the bridge collapse. He said another 11 people chose to stay in their homes.

“People are going to have to decide what level of safety, security and comfort they need, because there’s not going to be an easy way to go in and out to the grocery store for a long time,” Whitsett said.

Kittitas County Water District #5 Commissioner Fred Marion said the bridge collapse also took out the water line, leaving the greater part of Elk Meadows without access to running water. He said they hope to have the water working again within the next two days.

Marion said they’ve received two, 100-foot power poles from Puget Sound Energy to create a footbridge for people to walk across that section of the river until the bridge is fixed.

“The bridge probably will not be repaired between six months and a year, so there will be no vehicle traffic,” Marion said.

Crews shut off the power Tuesday morning as they began to try and remove the garbage truck from the river, but planned to restore service later in the evening.

Whitsett said the sheriff’s office did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing or traffic concerns at the scene. He said the investigation into what caused the bridge collapse will be handled by other agencies with the necessary expertise.

“This is going to boil down to structural engineering and that’s just not our lane,” Whitsett said.

Whitsett said since the bridge is privately owned, the local homeowner’s association is working to figure out their options for making a way for vehicles to come in and out of Elk Meadows.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Whitsett said he did not know of any verified donation pages or sites set up to help families impacted by the bridge collapse. He said the sheriff’s office would share that information with the public if it becomes available.

In the meantime, Whitsett said anyone who wants to help can donate to the American Red Cross, which is helping with evacuations.

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