Monday, October 26, 2015

Bonner Bridge

On this date in 1990 a dredge collided with the Herbert C. Bonner bridge (which spans Oregon inlet) during a storm, causing the collapse of a lengthy segment of the bridge. The accident isolated residents and visitors on Hatteras Island. In order to leave Hatteras thousands of vacationers were forced to take the Hatteras Inlet ferry to Ocracoke and then board a ferry to Swan Quarter or Cedar Island. In short order, Ocracoke Island was flooded with refugees. Ferry lines for vehicles waiting to board the ferries to the mainland stretched down NC 12 as far as the National Park Service campground. Waiting times quickly expanded to days, rather than hours.

The situation developed quickly, with stranded visitors dealing with cold nights, extremely limited accommodations (hundreds of people were forced to sleep in their cars), hunger, and lack of facilities. As soon as Ocracoke islanders realized the extent of the problem, volunteers were organized to care for the stranded motorists. We made sandwiches, and delivered food and beverages to the unfortunate folks. Motel owners and individuals offered free rooms to families with young children or elderly persons.

It took days to evacuate visitors from Hatteras and Ocracoke, and many weeks for emergency construction workers to repair the breach and reconnect the only highway link to the rest of the Outer Banks and the mainland.

You can read more about the accident, with photos, in an article written five years ago in the Island Free Press. Click here to read the article.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:


  1. Debbie Leonard9:37 AM

    I had never heard about that; very interesting! It doesn't surprise me that islanders pitched in because that is the kind of great community that is Ocracoke.

  2. If you follow the link, be sure to look at the slide show.

  3. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Re- the link: "The web page is not available".

    1. The link works for me. Also, click on the link with letters and messages from the folks who were aided by Ocracoke islanders.

  4. Anonymous11:10 AM

    I was able to read the newspaper article, but could not access photos because adobe flash cannot be downloaded to my smartphone.
    Where there's a will there's a way.
    I googled bonner bridge accident, then pressed Images at the top and voila-slide show. Then I went back and read all the articles.

  5. Anonymous12:03 PM

    I gather that when residents of OI listen to NPR and hear report after report of Syrian refugees/migrants being stranded in a country or waived thru only to spend the night who knows where-- OI knows what it is like to experience an influx of people that are suffering a series of unfortunate accidents. The coping skills and call to arms to aide and assist is FEMA worthy consultant material. Actually, maybe you all responded faster and better than FEMA would have --perhaps your county/city/hamlet would qualify for reimbursement next time a situation like this occurs.

  6. Anonymous10:11 AM

    Having been in "emergency services" for over thirty years, I can understand people wanting to get off of the outer banks after a major storm with resulting loss of power and in many cases fresh water. What I cannot understand is the ferry service and local officials continuing to transport people to Ocracoke in numbers larger then the ferries could then transport them to the mainland. In many ways, this was a man made crisis. My hats off to the people on Ocracoke for their many acts of kindness and compassion. Philip, thank you again for another great story on Ocracoke history.