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Trucker dead, another missing following fatal accident

by Lora Abcarian | September 07, 2009
The Beebe Bridge along Highway 97 near Chelan Falls, WA, remained closed on Sept. 1 following a fatal accident that claimed the life of truck driver Kathleen Walker, a 48-year-old resident of Olympia, WA.

Investigators were engaged in an ongoing search to find the body of her co- driver, also from Olympia, who remained unnamed pending notification of his or her next of kin.

On Aug. 31, Ms. Walker was heading south with a load of Red Delicious apples. Investigators determined she was about a quarter of the way across the bridge when the rig veered to the left, crashing into the bridge. The rig's cab tore loose from the trailer and plunged into the Columbia River. There were no other vehicles involved in the accident, according to reports from the scene.

Ms. Walker was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, and her body was recovered 30 feet underwater by divers from the sheriff's departments of Chelan and Douglas counties four hours after the accident occurred.

On the evening of Aug. 31, fire officials from Chelan County worked to contain a fuel spill coming from the submerged cab. A vertical support girder was torn from the bridge during the accident, and officials from the Washington Department of Transportation were determining the structural integrity of the bridge to ensure the safety of rescue personnel in their efforts to remove the wreckage from the bridge.

By press time (Sept. 3), officials had not determined how long the Beebe Bridge will be closed, and traffic was being redirected to Highway 97A through Entiat and Chelan, WA.