Fred Hutchinson James Delmage Ross Dixy Lee Ray George W. Bush Hazel Wolf Henry M Jackson Warren G. Magnuson Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6819 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Freighter Chavez rams West Seattle Bridge on June 11, 1978.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2421 : Printer-Friendly Format

At 2:38 a.m. on June 11, 1978, the freighter Chavez rams the West Seattle Bridge over the Duwamish West Waterway, thereby closing it to automobile traffic for the next six years.

The Chavez was 550 feet long and carrying 20,000 tons of gypsum under the command of 80-year-old Puget Sound Pilot Rolf Neslund (1897-1980) and its master, Gojko Gospodnetic, when, just before dawn, it struck the east end of the bridge. A Coast Guard board of inquiry found both officers negligent. Neslund retired two weeks after the accident. Gospodnetic, a Yugoslav national, was fired.

Two years later, Neslund's wife murdered him on Lopez Island, later claiming that he had returned to Norway. Although no trace of the body was ever found, she was convicted of the crime and died in prison.

The Silver Lining

The accident had one positive result: It ended years of debate over a new West Seattle Bridge, particularly a high bridge to accommodate Port of Seattle plans for expanded use of the Duwamish Waterway. The previous effort to build a bridge collapsed in 1975 amid a kickback scandal that sent the City Engineer to prison.

After the accident, Mayor Charles Royer (b. 1939) and City Councilmember Jeanette Williams (1914-2008) enlisted the aid of U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989) to secure federal funds and the participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as project manager for the high-level bridge. The new span was dedicated on July 14, 1984, at a cost of $150 million including $60 million in federal money. A new pivot-wing bridge later replaced the original bascule bridge.

Sources:
The [Seattle] Weekly, March 18, 1983, pp. 29-31; Ibid., May 11, 1983, p. 3-4; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 7, 1984, p. D-1.; West Seattle Story ed. by Clay Eals (Seattle: Robinson Newspapers, 1987).
Note:  This essay was corrected on June 10, 2010, to correct a misspelling of the ship captain's name.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Special Suite: Bridges |

Related Topics: Maritime | Roads & Rails | Crime |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




West Seattle Bridge spans after being rammed by the Chavez on June 11, 1978
Courtesy West Seattle Herald


New high-level West Seattle Bridge nearing completion in 1983
Courtesy West Seattle Herald


Rolf Neslund (1897-1980) in a photo taken before his 1980 murder, March 8, 1983
Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org