Somber ceremony marks 20-year anniversary of Queen Isabella Causeway collapse near South Padre Island

Eight people died after barge struck bridge in 2001

A memorial ceremony was held Wednesday to honor eight people who died in the tragic collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway 20 years ago on Sept. 15, 2001.
A memorial ceremony was held Wednesday to honor eight people who died in the tragic collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway 20 years ago on Sept. 15, 2001.

A memorial ceremony was held Wednesday to honor eight people who died in the tragic collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway 20 years ago on Sept. 15, 2001.

The Rio Grande Valley community was changed forever after barges struck the bridge connecting South Padre Island to the mainland early that morning. Eleven people driving on the bridge when the collapse occurred plunged into the water. Only three of them survived.

The eight who died were identified as Bob Harris, Hector Martinez, Jr., Barry and Chelsea Welch, all of Port Isabel; Julio Mireles of Los Fresnos; Robin Leavell of Mercedes; Stvan Francisco Rivas of Humble and Gaspar Hinojosa of Kingsville.

“We would like to remember and honor the victims,” said Randy Smith, South Padre Island City Manager. “The community will never forget the impact left from this tragic event.”

The commemorative service was held at Memorial Park, located at the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes on the South Padre Island end of the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge.

Each year, the cities of South Padre Island and Port Isabel alternate in hosting the ceremony. The service will include an honor guard, invocation and speeches by officials of both cities.

The bridge has since been rebuilt and is now known as the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway.

See photos of the bridge collapse below courtesy of Valerie Bates:

On Sept. 15, 2001, a barge crash led to the collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway. (© Valerie D. Bates)
On Sept. 15, 2001, a barge crash led to the collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway. (© Valerie D. Bates)
On Sept. 15, 2001, a barge crash led to the collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway. (© Valerie D. Bates)
On Sept. 15, 2001, a barge crash led to the collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway. (© Valerie D. Bates)
On Sept. 15, 2001, a barge crash led to the collapse of the Queen Isabella Causeway. (© Valerie D. Bates)

About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.