Special Reports

End of bridge cable ends up in the drink

Crews building the new Tacoma Narrows bridge will try to determine today how a suspender cable came loose during a deck-lifting operation Wednesday and wound up dangling in the water below.

No one was hurt in the mishap, and a spokeswoman with the Washington Department of Transportation said it’s not expected to slow construction on the bridge, which is set to open to traffic next summer.

The incident occurred about 6 p.m. as crews were attaching deck section No. 43 to suspender cables on the east side of the bridge, DOT spokeswoman Claudia Cornish said. That section is the fourth one in from the Tacoma anchorage.

A huge gantry crane – used to lift the multiton sections from a barge – still was holding the section in place when one of the cables from which the section will permanently hang became disconnected from the bridge’s main cable, Cornish said.

The suspender cables are attached to the main cable near their midpoints using a device called a cable band. The two ends of the cable then hang down in what is essentially a V-shape.

When things go correctly, ironworkers descend to the deck section from a catwalk above and attach the suspender cables to the deck sections.

But one of the cables slipped free of the cable band during Wednesday’s operations, Cornish said.

“We’re not quite sure what happened,” she said.

It was unclear late Wednesday whether crews already had attached one end of the suspender cable to deck section No. 43 or if it got caught on something as the cable fell.

In either case, the other end fell into the Narrows below with a splash.

Cornish emphasized that the deck section itself was never in any danger because it still was being held in place by the gantry crane.

“They don’t disconnect the deck sections from the gantries until all the suspenders are attached and ready,” she said.

Cornish said crews should have no trouble retrieving the fallen cable.

“They’ll just pull it back up,” she said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644