Enid teen saves two friends after bridge collapse

Thursday, March 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) _ Steve McHenry doesn't recall going over the bridge that foggy night as he and two other teen-agers drove home from a basketball game.

When the 16-year-old boy regained consciousness, one of his friends was face down in the creek running under the collapsed bridge. The other was trapped inside the pickup truck that had tumbled down the embankment.

McHenry's collarbone was broken as he was thrown from the truck Friday night. Despite the pain, he pulled Sarah Gillam from the creek and took her to a farmhouse a quarter-mile away. Then he got help for his other friend, James Fournier, who had a ruptured aorta.

``Steve McHenry is a hero,'' said Fournier's mother, Jamie Fournier. ``He saved Sarah and my son.''

McHenry insists he isn't the hero.

``I think the people who answered their door for us are,'' he said.

James Fournier was driving that night when the Pioneer High School students came upon a bridge officials believe collapsed earlier that night. He is still in intensive care, although doctors expect a full recovery by this summer.

Gillam had a broken nose and facial scratches after going through the windshield of the truck.

Garfield County Commissioner Olin Unruh said he thought the bridge, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1931, was sturdy.

``This is really a surprise that it collapsed because we have a problem tearing these old WPA bridges up when we replace them,'' he said.

But inspectors who checked the bridge in August recommended several repairs. They suggested paving the channel to prevent further erosion under the bridge.

Their report said the bridge could settle, but gave no indication it could collapse.

A Federal Highway Administration report released last week said 41.7 percent of Oklahoma's 22,799 bridges are deficient.

Unruh said accidents such as the one involving the Enid teens prove Oklahoma needs more money to improve bridges.