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Fatal crash closes Golden  Gate Bridge

    A northbound Novato man crossing the Golden Gate Bridge Monday afternoon pulled into a southbound lane and smashed head-on into another car, killing the woman driver and causing an 11-car pileup that closed bridge lanes for hours and halted traffic for miles. The deceased 38-year-old woman was not identified Monday night, allowing officials to contact her family, said California Highway Patrol officials. A Golden Gate official working at the toll plaza said it was the worst backup he'd seen in the eight years he'd worked at the bridge.

  Witnesses told officials that 56 year-old Joseph Cowan was driving his Mercedes Benz fast on the bridge about 3:23 p.m. when he came up behind slowed traffic. He attempted to pass the cars blocking his way by pulling into the southbound fast lane. He hit a BMW driven by the woman head-on, killing her instantly.  A chain reaction of crashes followed and eventually involved nine more cars, all traveling south, said highway officials. Besides Cowan, two men from Seattle driving in a Honda Civic had Major injuries, including head and internal injuries and lacerations. Highway officials said the two Seattle men were taken to San Francisco General Hospital. Cowan was taken to Marin General Hospital.

    The Seattle men, both in their 20s, were listed in fair condition at San Francisco General Hospital on Monday night. One suffered a spleen injury and the other a collapsed lung; both suffered minor cuts from glass. Wreckage covered five of the six lanes and the bridge had lanes closed from 3:30 until nearly 7:30 p.m. while emergency crews cleared away the debris. Six of the cars involved were driven off the bridge but five other were so damaged they had to be towed, officials said.  

    The crash occurred at the north tower on the Marin County end of the bridge. Southbound Highway 101 traffic backed up several miles to the Richardson Bay Bridge, according to officials. On the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, northbound commuters were stuck on city streets back to Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco's Marina District and to Lincoln Way through Golden Gate Park.

    The entire bridge was closed for more than an hour, then one northbound lane was opened at about 4:40 p.m. and a southbound lane opened at about 5:10 p.m., allowing traffic to begin to trickle through. All six lanes were reopened by 7:23 p.m. At 9 p.m., Golden Gate Bridge Board Officials said "Traffic still was backed up toward Van Ness Avenue."                                                   By Randi Rossmann/Staff Writer.  The Press Democrat Tuesday-June 25, 1996

Personal Note:

* The public has cried out for a movable median traffic barrier, in two ways: 

First. That the Bridge-Board of Director get off their hand's and do something, before there is a massive four to five car/truck head-on collision and other people die because of a luck of action taken towards the installation of the much needed Movable Median Traffic Barrier!
Second.  One of their own families members, or friends were to be involved in an head-on collision before they decided to do something a about MMB...

"Return Home Safe"