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Bridge-collapse anniversary observed

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Wednesday, Aug. 1 marks the 5th anniversary of the I-35 freeway bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured a total of 145 people, drew emergency responders from many places, including western Wisconsin.

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Saint Croix EMS divers from Hudson made a number of rescues and recoveries at the scene. The tragedy prompted auditors in the Badger State to analyze the condition of Wisconsin's bridges, and they found about 4% of the state-owned bridges are structurally-deficient.

The Great Recession has cut into the state's ability to do much about it. Last year, a public policy group said one of every 12 Wisconsin bridges still needs repairs.

The bridge collapse also caused a change in Wisconsin law triggered by Michael Stoner of Spooner, who said he and his fiancée heroically swam from the bridge collapse to see their daughter in a Minneapolis hospital. It turned out that Stoner attacked the child at his home earlier that day.

Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden later learned that Stoner's prison term - 7½ years - would have been longer had he attacked an adult. Lawmakers later toughened Wisconsin's child abuse penalties to make them equal to cases involving adult victims.

Several observances set for Aug. 1 in Minnesota commemorate somber 5th anniversary. Three local arts organizations created a musical composition, a short play and five poems to be debuted during a late afternoon program at Mill City Museum near the bridge site. The event coincides with the time of the rush hour collapse in 2007.

That will be followed by a photo exhibition in the museum's lobby. Artist Vance Gellert spent the last two years interviewing and photographing survivors, first responders and others affected by the collapse

Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered Minnesota flags be flown at half-staff today to mark the anniversary.

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