Daichi Ishikawa and survivor
Collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge
In 2004 Eric Daichi Ishikawa, one of the students
taking part in that years Historica event (in which
students from elementary schools all across Canada prepare historical
exhibits on topics of their choice), assembled an illustrated report
on the June 17, 1958 collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge. Daichi
was a student at Edith Cavell Elementary in Vancouver. Its
a superb production, made all the more remarkable by his age: 10.
He gives the history of the first bridge (1925)
across that point on the Inlet, a bridge so badly placed it was
hit many times by ships and in September of 1930 was put out of
commission for more than three years when a ship took out the centre
span. (The refigured bridgethe centre span was moved farther
out over the wateris in use today as a railway crossing.)
The decision was made in 1955 to construct a new
bridge, a six-lane high-level highway bridge, budgeted in April,
1955 at $12 million to $15 million, with a construction time of
three years. It was to be the longest cantilever bridge in
Western Canada, Daichi writes, the eighth longest in
the world. Its length was 1,292 metres (4,238 feet.) He walked
across it and back with his family. It took him 40 minutes. By
car at 80 km per hour, you would take about 1 minute to cross the
What makes his report particularly outstanding is
the interviews he conducted with some of the survivors. On February
28, 2004 he visited Lucien Lessard, then 76, at his home in Langley.
Lessard was a 30-year-old foreman in 1958.
Daichi: First of all, how did you survive?
Lessard: When the bridge came down, I fell in the
water on the side of the bridge, so I didnt hit any of the
structures on the bridge. I was lucky. When I came out, I grabbed
some floating planks and managed to see, floating until somebody
on a boat picked me up to put me to the shore . . .
Daichi: Were you one of the twenty people who
got injured and sent to the hospital?
Lessard: Yes. When the bridge collapsed I broke
my arm and my leg and hurt my back and my face, and I got all my
intestines mixed up because when you drop 200 feet and hit the water
you get hurt, right? I might have passed out and ended up on the
bottom of the ocean. Steel is heavier than human beings. The bridge
was coming down faster and we were coming down slower. When I hit
the bottom, the steel was already on the bottom. It was dirty and
black, so I could see nothing . . . I managed to work my way up
and tried to pick a plank, but I found out I had a broken arm and
a broken leg, so I managed to get a plank and float for a while
until somebody picked me up and brought me to the shore.
Daichi: That was a big disaster. Youll
never forget this.
Lessard: Ill never forget that. Thats
why I feel theres an obligation for me. Thats why Im
doing this with you. Only a few of us left alive now. Im seventy-six
years old. Im an old man. Ive got only a few more years
to live. So any time I have a chance to help out our new generation,
I think Ive got an obligation to do it . . . There are only
five survivors left alive now, and only two or three of us can walk.
Daichi: Im really glad youre one
of the lucky ones.
Lessard: Im very fortunate. Thats why
I appreciate my life now. Ive been in a good life. After the
collapse, I was in hospital for five months. I was a lucky one who
One of the interviews Daichi conducted was with
Patrick Glendinning, who was a child at the time, and whose father
Colinseverely injuredwas one of the survivors.
Daichi: Did you actually go and see the disaster?
Glendinning: Not at all. As kids, even when they
were rebuilding it, we never ever went to the site. But Dad went
back on the bridge 6 months later. He had a broken leg, right? So
it healed and then a year later, when they were rebuilding it, same
day, same month, he broke his leg again. He got treated by the same
nurse and the same doctor at the same hospital . . . Everything
else was the same except it was the opposite leg!
Incidentally, Glendinning's wage at the time was
$3.85 an hour.
Daichi includes newspaper clippings, news shots
of the collapsed span, photographs that illustrate different types
of bridges, photos of himself and his family on the bridge, and
much other supporting material. Its a terrific piece of work.