Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died Monday when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath the span, said James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPointe Foursquare Church.
"It's a tragic event," Ludlow said Tuesday. "In the blink of an eye, inhale and exhale, and they're in the presence of God."
Construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the state Route 410 overpass in Bonney Lake, about 30 miles southeast of Seattle, when a concrete barrier fell to the roadway below around 10:30 a.m.
"We were just heading down the street ... and I could hear three snaps and down it went on top of the truck," Dawn Nelson, who was riding in a car behind the pickup, told Seattle television station KING. "There was nothing anyone could do. It was just surreal."
It was not immediately known what caused the concrete structure to fall. Bonney Lake police, the state Department of Transportation and representatives from contractor WHH Nisqually are investigating.
The material that fell was part of the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100, city spokesman Woody Edvalson said.
Flowers, a cross and a teddy bear have been placed near the overpass, which has reopened along with the road underneath it. But debris from the concrete slab is still on the ground.
Ludlow described the Ellis family as "great people" who were loved by kids in the church's congregation.
They were "the type of people everybody loves and gravitates to," Ludlow said.
Shane Lance, another pastor at the church, said "our hearts ache....they were just really sweet, lighthearted people."
Construction for a $1.8 million city sidewalk project to improve pedestrian access along the highway started about a month ago. WHH Nisqually had crews on scene Monday.
"The project was to add a pedestrian walkway along that overpass on SR 410," Edvalson said. "This accident occurred as a result of that effort."
The project included rebuilding the north side of the bridge, adding a sewer line, widening the highway, and adding bases for future streetlights, according to city documents.