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Witnesses on the scene describe bridge collapse

When the Interstate 35 West bridge across the Mississippi River collapsed, former Duluth resident Brianne Stately was about half a city block away.

Stately, who moved from Duluth to Minneapolis on July 18, was returning from a 2:30 p.m. appointment Wednesday in downtown Duluth.

She and her mother Janet were trying to get around the I-35W bridge because they could see it was clogged with traffic, which she thought was because of a 7 p.m. Twins game at the Metrodome.

"We were on the bridge right next to it, which is the 10th (Avenue) Bridge," Stately, 37, said. "It's probably half a city block away from (the I-35W) bridge. My mom heard rumbling and then I felt it. I looked at her and she screamed and said. 'The bridge is falling.' "

"The center of the bridge fell and then the two ends V'd down. You could see cars sliding down into the water and a semi caught on fire," Stately said. She also saw a school bus hit a concrete structure. None of the 60 children that she said were inside sustained major injury, she said.

By 9 p.m., Stately had yet to hear from two of her three children, an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old.

"They have friends they would've had to cross the bridge to see," she said.

Cell phones in the Twin Cities were jammed, which aggravated the problem.

"None of the cell phones down here are working, so we weren't able to reach our family," Stately said. "I'm freaking out because I don't know where my kids are. My brother has a girlfriend and she and his 6-year-old daughter were supposed to leave town today and we don't know where they are."

Stately lives about a mile from the bridge, so she returned to the scene after getting home. She said rescue crews from several nearby hospitals had already responded, so she went back home.

"They were still pulling people out of the water when we left,"she said.