A Survivor's Story

Bernie Toivonen CBS/The Early Show

As Bernie Toivonen was heading home last night, his biggest annoyance was a backup on the approach to the I-35W bridge.

"I reached … this point on the freeway, (and) there was some construction workers hand-digging a trench and the traffic was really slow up until this point here where we're at, right below the bridge," he told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.

Traffic sped up for a few seconds and then, Toivonen remembered, "The bridge deck collapsed and it was a point where it was almost a 45-degree angle on the bridge deck. And I knew right away it was going down.

"It just — it felt like weightlessness, you know, in the vehicle. And I went down."

He estimates his initial fall was 50 feet.

"And then I leveled out and stopped about another 40 to 50 feet behind, you know, where the deck collapsed," he said.

The accident happened so suddenly "there really wasn't a lot of time to react to
anything," he said. "When (my car) came to a stop, I checked to make sure I was OK and I was so lucky — I didn't get hurt and my vehicle really didn't get hurt either."

After recovering from his initial shock, Toivonen jumped into action and tried to get other drivers from their cars.

"I helped a lady out of her van," he said. "She had an injury to the side of her head and she was calling for help and I helped her out of her minivan. And then there's another guy who was farther to the north and he had a beam on his arm and I removed the beam."

Moments later, "a couple guys came by (who) were also on the bridge deck, and they
pulled the guy out from under his car."

The whole experience, he said, was simply "unbelievable."
  • Marianne Goldstein

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