Driver, Fisherman Reunite 10 Years After I-40 Bridge Collapse - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Truck Driver, Fisherman Reunite 10 Years After I-40 Bridge Collapse

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A barge on the Arkansas River slammed into a bridge support under I-40 sending the bridge and at least ten cars into the river. A barge on the Arkansas River slammed into a bridge support under I-40 sending the bridge and at least ten cars into the river.
WEBBER FALLS, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma has seen its share of tragedies. Ten years ago this month no one could have imagined what would happen on a quiet Sunday in eastern Oklahoma.

A barge on the Arkansas River slammed into a bridge support under I-40 sending the bridge and at least ten cars into the river.  Jim Bilyeu's semi truck was one of them.

"I got to the top of the bridge and all of a sudden, there's nothing there," Bilyeu remembers. "Of course I thought that was the end. No way I was going to survive this."

The swift Arkansas current almost sucked Jim right under the barge. That's when a fisherman risked his boat and his life to save him.

Norman Barton and his buddy Randy Graham were on the water competing in a fishing tournament that morning. They were heading toward the bridge when it collapsed.

"What I remember more than anything is the splash," Barton recalled.

Both fishermen rushed to the scene, tied a seat cushion to a rope and threw it toward Jim.

"I just happened to hook my arm in and my buddy here pulled me in to the boat," Jim said.

Ten years since the tragedy that killed 14 people, Jim and Norman reunite along the same water that brought them together.

They reflect on that day, the rescue and what still haunts them to this day.

After more than 40 years on the road, Jim retired from truck driving shortly after the 2002 bridge collapse. Norman still fishes regularly on the Arkansas River.

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