MDOT inspects bridge after barge accident

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A barge that hit a piling midway across the Mississippi River bridge Saturday night lost power just before the accident, Adams County Civil Defense Director George Souderes said Sunday.

&8220;It lost power, and (the captain) couldn&8217;t see his instruments and had no lights &8212; that&8217;s according to the Coast Guard,&8221; Souderes said, adding that there were no injuries in the crash.

Without instruments or lights, the captain had to steer the barge by sight &8212; something that would have been difficult to do, given heavy rains at the time, Souderes said. It wasn&8217;t clear as of Sunday what made the power go out, something the Coast Guard will investigate. Coast Guard officials in Natchez couldn&8217;t be reached for comment Sunday.

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A Sunday inspection of the bridge by Mississippi Department of Transportation crews showed no damage.

Executive Director Larry L. &8220;Butch&8221; Brown said the department will wait until the river level goes down another 20 feet to inspect pilings below the water level.

When the barge from Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel struck the bridge piling, the barge split apart, with three of its units still intact and five breaking apart and heading down the river, Souderes said.

He didn&8217;t know as of Sunday where the other parts of the barge ended up, &8220;but I do know they were rounded up pretty quickly.&8221;

Part of the barge did end up crashing into equipment Bunge Corp. uses to load grain onto barges from its silos on the Louisiana side of the river south of the bridge.

Doug McNeely, a Bunge district manager based in Vicksburg, surveyed the crash site Sunday.

But he said he will need to talk via conference call with other Bunge officials to plan cleanup and to arrange for the company&8217;s insurance firm to visit the site.

He did say this is the facility&8217;s off season, so the crash shouldn&8217;t have much effect on business.