Survivor of 1972 Bridge Collapse Shares His Story of Hope After Francis Scott Key Bridge Tragedy

Al Donal recounted how he and his wife, Mary Ann, survived the Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse in Brunswick, Georgia, more than 50 years ago

In the wake of Tuesday's Francis Scott Key bridge collapse, a survivor of the 1972 Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse in Brunswick, Georgia, is sharing a message of hope.

Speaking to CBS Philadelphia, Al Donal was overcome with emotion as he recalled the events from November 7, 1972.

Al had been returning from his honeymoon with his wife Mary Ann — who also survived the bridge collapse — when a ship hit the Sidney Lanier Bridge and plunged the couple into the water below.

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"I get emotional, I'll be honest," Al said. "We were coming back from our honeymoon from Disney World.”

<p>Savannah Morning News-USA TODAY NETWORK  </p> Image of the aftermath of the Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse in 1972

Savannah Morning News-USA TODAY NETWORK

Image of the aftermath of the Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse in 1972

Related: Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse in Maryland: Live Updates About the Incident in Baltimore

"You see this thing of lights coming up the river, the Brunswick River, and it keeps getting closer and closer,” he added. “And, two guys ran past us and he said, 'It's gonna hit! It's gonna hit!' "

The lights were coming from a ship that ended up hitting the bridge, causing Al, his wife and at least 22 others to fall into the water.

The incident is similar to the one that occurred in Baltimore on Tuesday, when a large shipping container struck the Francis Scott Key bridge causing it to collapse into the Patapsco River. Six people were still missing as of Wednesday morning.

Recalling what happened after he woke, Al said he saw a woman trying to keep her head above the water.

Related: Baltimore Bridge Collapse Survivor Described Watching Ship Get Closer, Says Maryland Gov.

"There was a woman out there and we were talking, and I had no idea who she was. She didn't know who I was. We never identified ourselves," he explained.

After being taken to the hospital, Al thought his wife, Mary Ann, had died, however, a nurse saw his hospital bracelet and realized that she was nearby.

“Chills all over. I yelled her name out, and she answered me," he told CBS Philadelphia, adding that he had taught Mary Ann how to swim three nights before.

"I taught her how to tread water that night, thank God," Al said of his wife.

Al and Mary Ann are still married more than 50 years later, and share four children and four grandchildren. Because of her parents' story, Al and Mary Ann's daughter, Jennifer, is passionate about teaching children how to swim.

According to Reuters, 10 people died after the Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse.

<p>Jack West-USA TODAY NETWORK</p> Photo of the aftermath of the 1972 Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse


Photo of the aftermath of the 1972 Sidney Lanier Bridge collapse

Meanwhile, on Tuesday it was revealed the six people still missing were presumed to have died following the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse.

"I'd like to announce tonight that based on the length of time that we've gone on this search, the extensive search efforts that we've put into it, the water temperature, at this point, we do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon N. Gilreath said in a press conference streamed by local Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL-TV on Tuesday night.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld revealed at a press conference on Tuesday Morning that eight workers were repairing potholes when the collapse happened.

Al shared a message for the families of the people who have not been recovered.

"Keep praying," he said. "Best thing in the world."

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