By Kera Wanielista
Skagit Valley Herald
MOUNT VERNON — Three of the parties accused of playing a role in the 2013 collapse of the Skagit River Bridge have accepted responsibility.
William D. Scott, the driver of the semi-truck that struck the bridge, his employer, Mullen Trucking LP, and Tammy Detray, Scott’s pilot driver, have admitted liability, according to documents filed in Skagit County Superior Court.
On June 7, each party contended they were “an at fault entity and (their) fault may be compared with the fault of all other at fault entities …”, according to the documents.
They are not the only defendants in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the state.
The state contends that while Scott, Mullen Trucking and Detray are each at fault for the collapse, truck driver Amandeep Sidhu and his employer, Motorways Transport Ltd., are also at fault.
Despite knowing Scott was hauling an oversize, over-wide load, the state contends Sidhu negligently attempted to pass Scott on the bridge, essentially forcing Scott to remain in the right-hand lane, which had less clearance due to a curve in the bridge’s overhead trusses.
Also included as a defendant in the state’s lawsuit is Patty Auvil-Handily, the owner of a pilot car company who hired Detray to be Scott’s pilot car driver. Those parties have not admitted liability in the collapse of what is now called the Trooper Sean M. O’Connell Jr. Memorial Bridge.
The state’s lawsuit is on hold pending an appeal by Mullen Trucking in regards to another aspect of the case — whether the state Department of Transportation should share the blame.
Mullen Trucking’s lawyer, Steve Block, contends Scott’s truck made minimal contact with the bridge and that the true cause of the collapse was the state’s failure to adequately maintain the bridge — a claim the state denies.
In December, a Skagit County Superior Court judge ruled that the Department of Transportation cannot be held liable for the bridge’s collapse.
The total cost of repairing the bridge, including installing temporary and permanent bridge spans, was about $19.8 million, according to the Department of Transportation. Of that amount, the state has been reimbursed about $18.7 million by the federal government.
The state is seeking damages of about $17.5 million from the defendants named in the suit. The state contends that amount includes costs of traffic control and emergency response, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, the state is also representing the three people who plunged into the river as a result of the collapse.
No one died in the collapse, but the severing of a major regional transportation route disrupted travel and business for months.
Trooper O’Connell, of Lake Stevens, died in an accident while directing traffic through detours set up after the bridge collapsed.