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Is it true a Cadillac fell off the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge into the river?

Ben Steelman
StarNews

The story has apparently been exaggerated in urban legend, but the facts are essentially true.

The incident happened on the morning of Oct. 31, 1977, reportedly in bumper-to-bumper traffic. (Some versions claim it was shortly after the bridge opened in 1969, but that’s incorrect.)

Gennis Smith was driving across the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, traveling west from Wilmington, as a ship was approaching the bridge. He didn’t make it across. “I was off the bridge, except I lacked about a foot of being clear,” he recalled in a StarNews interview 10 years after the event.

The rising span caught the bumper of Smith’s 1975 Cadillac. “When it got pulled up about 6 feet, I jumped,” said Smith, who escaped unhurt.

When the span came down, it crushed Smith’s car, and the wreckage fell into the river. The car was still underwater 10 years later.

A Chevrolet Vega immediately behind Smith came to a stop, then  rode the span all the  up and back down without incident. The woman at the wheel was upset (“She was screaming,” Smith said), but was also unhurt. She promptly drove away without leaving her name.

A 1978 probe by the N.C. Department of Transportation “found no negligence” in the incident. The bridge tender — who testified that he did not have clear view of the whole span — was cleared of wrongdoing. In the wake of the splashdown, though, the N.C. DOT installed extra video monitoring cameras on the bridge.

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One Response to “ Is it true a Cadillac fell off the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge into the river?”

  1. On November 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm Tom Reece wrote:

    Just how deep is the channel directly under the span that they raise for ships to come in & out ?



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