In 1989, in my state of Michigan, a Yugo was blown off the Mackinac Bridge. This accident has attained folkloric status and everyone seems to know about it to this day. The accident killed Leslie Ann Pluhar, a 31-year-old waitress.  (FYI: Karpivna has driven over the Mackinac Bridge many times with no mishaps, but in heavier vehicles than a puny Yugo. LOL)

Leslie Pluhar owned a blue Yugo, a small imported car, and had left Detroit Friday to meet her boyfriend that evening in St. Ignace, the tiny community at the bridge`s north terminus. She never arrived.

Four days after the mishap, divers using sonar located the car perched on a ledge about 150 feet below the surface. But high winds and bad weather would make it impossible to recover the wreck for another four days.

Meanwhile, a crowd of reporters and curiosity seekers began to gather at the rescue site. Pluhar`s family also made the sad pilgrimage north where they were greeted at every turn by microphones, cameras, lights and notebooks.

On Saturday evening, a team of 12 divers was finally able to bring up the wreck after more than 10 hours of risky maneuvers in the murky waters. Pluhar`s family looked on from a small boat.

Hundreds had gathered at the municipal marina in Mackinaw City to witness the grisly moment.

The blue Yugo was so badly crumpled by the impact that police had difficulty removing the woman`s body. It was not until later that night that her family was able to positively identify the body.

Pluhar died in the most spectacularly frightening and awesome manner that any Michigander could imagine. Her Yugo went out of control and swerved off the Mackinac Bridge, free-falling 170 feet into the chilly waters below.

The 3,800-foot suspension bridge, which links Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the lower mainland, was considered an engineering marvel when it opened 32 years ago. The graceful arc of steel and wire across the Straits of Mackinac is undoubtedly the state`s most famous piece of architecture. 

The Mackinac Bridge is currently the third longest suspension bridge in the world. The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. The total length of the Mackinac Bridge is 26,372 feet. 

“Mighty Mac,” as it is known by many, inspires affection and fear. Sweaty palms are one of the more visceral responses the bridge evokes from approaching motorists.

In fact, the Mackinac Bridge Authority maintains a “Timid Motorists” program in which bridge employees will get behind the wheel and drive panic-stricken motorists across the span. Last year, some 400 motorists availed themselves of this service.

But in 64 million crossings over the last 32 years, no one had ever driven off the bridge. Not until Leslie Ann Pluhar did it in a blue Yugo, as twilight fell on the gusty, rainy Friday evening of Sept. 22, 1989.


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