Barge hits bridge, sinks

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A grain barge remained semi-submerged in the Mississippi River between the bridges Tuesday after a 35-barge tow struck the Old Mississippi River bridge early Monday.

The barges and the towboat are owned by American Barge Lines from Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Warren County bridge commissioner Herman Smith said the river is open to barge traffic and the bridge was opened to rail traffic after noon Monday.

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The strike occurred about 4:22 a.m. Monday. Smith said the southbound tow hit the bridge’s pier 4, which is on the Louisiana side of the river, when the pilot failed to negotiate the current in the river as he headed toward the bridge and struck the pier with the far right string of the tow, tearing that entire string away from the tow.

He said the barge sank immediately. “It’s pointed north, because it hit our pier going south and then turned around,” he said, adding most of the cargo in the barges was grain, but the tow had one “red flag” barge that was protected by other barges and not damaged. He did not know that barge’s cargo.

Smith said two other barges were sitting on the bridge’s pier 6, but were later moved Monday.

Brad Babb with Big River Shipyard, which will raise the barge, said no schedule has been set when to raise it.

“It’s still in the planning stages because of where the barge is sitting in between the bridges,” he said. “To get the equipment in there with the heights and the way the river’s up is a little more difficult.”

Presently, he said, the main goal is to keep some damaged barges sitting along the bank and in the process of sinking afloat.

“They have pumps and they are being lightered to remove product so they’ll float better,” Babb said. “Once we get the approval from the Coast Guard, we’ll move them to a fleet area where we can decide the best course of action for those barges. We can save those barges and save the customer a lot of money by keeping them up.”

He said the barge in the river “is in a precarious spot and it’s going to sink. We’re going to take care of it, but it’s in a bad spot and it takes a little more planning.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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