Tasman Bridge Disaster

The Tasman Bridge disaster occurred on the evening of 5 January 1975, in Hobart, the capital city of Australia's island state of Tasmania, when a bulk ore carrier travelling up the Derwent River collided with several pylons of the Tasman Bridge, causing a large section of the bridge deck to collapse onto the ship and into the river below. Twelve people were killed, including seven crew on board the ship, and the five occupants of four cars which fell 45 m (150 feet) after driving off the bridge. The disaster severed the main link between Hobart and its eastern suburbs, and is notable for the social impacts that resulted from the loss of such an important road artery.

On 5 January 1975, the Lake Illawarra, with a cargo of 10,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate bound for the Elecrolytic Zinc Company, collided with the Tasman Bridge and sank. Two piers of the bridge were demolished, and three spans of deck supported by them collapsed. Twelve people died in the accident. In March 1975, a Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission was appointed to restore the Tasman Bridge. The reconstruction of the bridge included the modification of the whole bridge to accommodate an extra traffic lane to allow for a peak period tidal flow system of three lanes for the major flow and two for the minor.

As we approached, it was a foggy night...there was no lights on the bridge at the time. We just thought there was an accident. We slowed down to about 40 km/h and I'm peering out the window, desperately looking to see the car...what was happening on the bridge. We couldn't see anything but we kept on travelling. The next thing, I said to Frank, "The bridge is gone!" And he just applied the brakes and we just sat there swinging.”

— Sylvia Manley, survivor of the Tasman Bridge Disaster

One of Australia’s most bizarre shipwrecks must be the tragic collision of the MV Lake Illawarra (a 7274-ton bulk ore carrier) with the Tasman Bridge, in Hobart, on the evening of January 5, 1975.

The Tasman Bridge opened to traffic in August 1964, as a four-lane, high-level concrete bridge with a central navigation span for shipping.

Just before 9:30pm, as it sailed up the River Derwent, the Lake Illawarra struck two pylons on the eastern end of the bridge, bringing the concrete roadway crashing down onto the deck. Seven crew members were killed and four cars ran over the gap in the bridge; five car occupants were killed and several others were left to scramble for their lives as their vehicles teetered on the edge of the gap. The ship sank in deep water a short distance to the south of the bridge where its wreckage can be found today.