'I don't want to die'! Biloxi woman recalls son's terrifying words as barge crashed into bridge

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "We got to get off.  We got to get off.  I don't want to die. I don't want to die like this!"

Michelle Filipich recalled those chilling words uttered by 11-year-old son Nicholas early Friday morning.  It was around 7:24, and Filipich was taking Nicholas and her eight-year-old daughter Mary-Katherine north on the Popp's Ferry Bridge to get some doughnuts.  She noticed a tug boat in the distance, pushing eight barges.

"And then the light turned yellow and I could have went probably if I didn't have my kids in the car," said Filipich. "But my little boy was like. 'Stop momma. Stop! Stop!' Of course the bridge went up and I said, 'Oh my gosh. We're going to be late.'  So I was inching up."

Filipich parked just past the sign that tells drivers to stop at the traffic signal.

"And when we felt the bridge shake, and I still didn't know what it was," said Filipich.  "I can't even remember if I heard a noise or what it was, but I remember seeing the concrete falling."

That's when she realized what had happened.  A barge had slammed into the bridge, knocking down two concrete sections and eight pilings, just a few yards from where she and her children waited.

A terrified Filipich backed up the car to get off the bridge as quickly as possible.

"That's quite a drop," she commented as she peered over the broken span.

The emotions hit her again Monday morning, when she returned to the bridge for the first time.

"It's kind of scary.  Scary," said Filipich.

Filipich says her children still get nervous every time they cross a bridge. The experience and her very smart son taught her a valuable lesson.

"Patience about life and certain things.  What really doesn't matter and what does matter," said Filipich.

The Coast Guard and state Department of Marine Resources are still investigating the cause of the collision.  MDOT says they should know by next week the extent of the bridge damage, estimated cost, and how long the repairs will take.

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