About 8:15 p.m. c.s.t., April 1, 1989, an 85.5-foot-section of the 4,201-foot-long northbound U.S. Route 51 bridge over the Hatchie River fell about 20 feet into the 24-foot deep rain-swollen river after 2 pile supported column bents supporting 3 bridge spans collapsed. Witness reports and physical evidence indicate that the southern column (70) bent and the two spans that it supported fell quickly causing 4 passenger cars and 1 tractor-semitrailer to plunge into the river. The adjacent column bent (71) and the span that it was supporting, then collapsed on top of the vehicles. The river had apparently been at flood stage since November 1988. All eight vehicle occupants died as a result of the collapse.