Want to ask a question? Click here

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

Ben Steelman

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.

User-contributed question by:

Got a comment about this post or know more about the answer? Click here to let us know!

Bookmark and Share

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 ?

Ask a question

Ask a question

If you’re looking for answers about living in coastal North Carolina, you’ve come to the right place. If we don’t have the answer to your question, we’ll find out or try to find someone who does. Hey, that’s our job! So, ask your question below and we’ll do our best to find the answer. Once we do, we’ll post it in an appropriate category.

Can we use your name to credit you by name (no e-mail or other contact information) with this question when we post an answer?
Your question:

Post a comment

Talk to us!

Have a comment about this post or know more about the answer? Use this form to let us know. Note that all comments are moderated and must be approved before they are posted, although you may see your own comments the first time you post them.

Your comment: