How a dog bite led to the only death during the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse


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How a dog bite led to the only death during the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse

Miraculously, no people died, but the bridge did claim a life: Tubby, a three-legged black Cocker Spaniel that remained trapped in his car as the bridge wobbled, then fell.

Leonard Coatsworth, a news editor for the Tacoma News Tribune, was driving on the bridge on Nov. 7. 1940, with Tubby in the backseat, according to Washington State Dept. of Transportation historians. The bridge had frequently swayed in the wind since its grand opening four months earlier, giving it the "Galloping Gertie" nickname.

But on this November day, the wind was blowing at 42 mph, and it was more than "Gertie" could withstand.

A third attempt was made by Professor F.B. Farquharson, an engineering professor at the University of Washington, who was there to document the bridge's frequent sways. Farquharson made it to the car and opened the rear door.

"He tried to calm the sick, terrified pooch, but Tubby snapped at the friendly hand, nipping the knuckle," according to the WSDOT.

Farquharson stumbled his way back off the bridge in the nick of time, and that section of the bridge collapsed moments later.

There were some other weird events tied to the bridge collapse

* The day before the bridge collapsed, a journalism class at nearby Fife High School was tasked with writing an essay to use their imagination and write a story that began with "Just suppose…". One student's paper: "Just suppose the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses."

* A billboard near the bridge advertised a bank proclaiming they were "as secure as the Narrows Bridge." The ad had been covered with plain paper within an hour of the bridge's collapse.