Barney Elliott Dies; Shot Bridge Collapse -- Tacoma Span Fell In 1940 Windstorm

TACOMA - Uncounted millions have seen the old film clip, a cable suspension bridge flapping in high winds, tearing itself apart and sinking into the water.

On Sunday (July 20), the man who filmed the collapse of "Galloping Gertie" over the Tacoma Narrows in 1940, Bernard Daniel "Barney" Elliott, died at his home near the span that was built to replace it. He was four days short of his 91st birthday.

Mr. Elliott was born in Rock Island, Ill., and came to Tacoma with his family in 1909. He earned a chemistry and physics degree at the University of Puget Sound, worked as a chemist, electrician and schoolteacher, then opened The Camera Shop in 1937.

Three years later, he and his business partner, T. Harbine Monroe, documented the $6 million construction of the bridge that became known as Galloping Gertie because of the carnival-ride sensation produced by oscillations that resulted from badly flawed engineering.

On Nov. 7, 1940, four months after the span was opened, 40 mph winds caused so much twisting that the bridge was closed.

Mr. Elliott and Monroe brought their cameras. Mr. Elliott put down his Bell & Howell 16mm movie camera to help the last motorist reach safety, then filmed Gertie's last gallop.

"I watched it go down through my viewfinder," Mr. Elliott recalled in 1975, "and then I ran like hell."

The famous footage was shown in movie newsreels around the world. Mr. Elliott went on to work as a landscape photographer,

producing images for postcards, and as a stringer for KING-TV of Seattle.

Survivors include a son, Ed, of Tacoma.

At his request, there will be no services.