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Webbers Falls community honors victims of I-40 bridge collapse 20 years later

Posted at 3:08 PM, May 30, 2022

WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. — The Webbers Falls community held a memorial ceremony Monday to remember the lives of the people who lost their lives when the I-40 bridge collapsed 20 years ago after it was struck by a barge. The memorial also honors the lives of those who survived.

“I mean I sit here, I stand here, I come here, I look down there at that bridge and I say…no, but’s real,” Janette Barlow, aunt of one of the victims, said as she looked at the memorial.

Barlow would give anything to have her niece, Gail Shanahan, here Monday.

“The emotion of it still is within,” Barlow said.

Her niece was among the 14 people who were killed when an errant barge hit the pillars of the I-40 bridge pier near Webbers falls, causing a section of the bridge to collapse over the Arkansas River.

Barlow said her niece was coming from a barrel racing competition in Fort Smith, Arkansas and was on her way to Stockdale, Texas when the incident happened. Although 20 years have passed, many still remember the pain of that day.

“I know so many of us went through so much during that time,” Terry Angier with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said.

“It reminds me of Shea, and that she’s going to heaven and that everybody is following behind her,” Teresa Schulterman, who lost three family members said.

Sculterman's 28-year-old sister, 30-year-old brother-in-law, and four-year-old niece were on their way to the Tulsa Zoo, but they never made it.

“You just don’t believe, you know, what’s happening, it’s just not real you know that you lose such a close family member,” Schluterman said.

A journey of grief so profound, it's brought families of victims and survivors closer together.

“We met a lot of the survivors, and we met a lot of who did not make it, the Johnson family that had the child, so it’s a reliving, and it’s also a thanksgiving," Barlow said.

The families of the victims said they are grateful for the family they have found in the Webbers Falls community.

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