Coast Guard investigating Sunday’s bridge strike
U.S. Coast Guard officials are investigating the circumstances that caused a northbound three-barge tow to strike the Old Highway 80 bridge and the I-20 bridge crossing the Mississippi River, a Coast Guard spokesperson said.
The Motor Vessel Seko, owned and operated by Genesis Energy Marine Transport of Houston, Texas, was moving a tow of three barges loaded with gas oil when it struck the Old Highway 80 bridge about 4:20 p.m. Sunday.
Gas oil is used for heating, for off road vehicles like tractors, and machinery in construction and agriculture. It has a red dye added to distinguish it from road diesel used by tractor-trailers and rebated fuel.
The tow struck pier No. 4 of the Old Highway 80 bridge and broke apart, with the first barge spinning around and striking the I-20 bridge. Pier No. 4 is on the Louisiana side of the bridge.
Bridge superintendent Herman Smith said the Old Highway 80 bridge pier was scratched on both sides, and further inspection by engineers revealed no serious damage.
Erin Buchanan, a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said a preliminary inspection by LDOTD’s bridge engineer indicated the pier that was struck on the I-20 bridge was scratched, but had no significant damage.
Smith said the barges were full, but did not sink or leak after hitting the bridge piers, and no barges took on water.
He said it is very rare for a northbound tow to strike the bridges.
“I really don’t know what happened,” he said, adding video of the incident shows the MV Seko and its tow starting to veer to the left as it approached the bridges.
When they struck the Old Highway 80 bridge pier, the first two barges broke free and then hit the pier a second time, with the first barge breaking from the second and rolling around to hit the I-20 bridge before drifting south.