written by Joe Ganger, Nov 2000
The real problem was that these bridges weren't built for the heavier cars going at higher rates of speed, with all the associated stress on the bridge this caused. In addition, the sides were also the supports, so if you ran into the side with a car or truck, the whole thing went into the river.
That happened near Colon on October 22, 1948, when a car driven by Ralph Persing, 51, of Sturgis, and passengers Virgil Farrand, 48, and Ferris Weinberg, 36, both of Colon struck the side of the bridge over the St. Joseph River on Bennett Road. The south section of the bridge collapsed, dumping the car into the cold river. Persing was pinned under the steering wheel and under the water level. Farrand and Weinberg held Pershings head above the water level for nearly an hour until he was freed from the wreckage.
No rescue squad in those days! All three men were taken to Colon by Clifton Carpenter of Colon who happened to be the next car along. Virgil was badly bruised but Ralph was transported to the Sturgis Hospital by ambulance. His 1948 Studebaker wasn't in good shape either.
The north portion (from the center piling on) had been replaced in 1936 after it was struck by an auto and collapsed.
In 1941 the Leland Bridge fell into the river after it was struck by a car.
The outage of the Bennett Bridge caused problems for area motorists since at the time it happened, the Farrand Bridge had been condemned for normal traffic during the war and had not yet been replaced.