Barge crash still having effect

Published 12:58 am Thursday, May 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — The ramifications from Monday night’s bridge strike by a fleet of barges are still being felt on the river.

Coast Guard Lt. Teresa Hatfield said the Mississippi River’s traffic flow was stopped for nearly 24 hours.

Hatfield said a 24-hour river closure is somewhat abnormal.

Email newsletter signup

The river was closed just after the accident.

It remained closed while crews attempted to remove barges tangled on the bridge’s piers.

Hatfield said the bridge was not reopened until Tuesday night because the fleet of loose barges was being reassembled in the river.

Wake from river traffic could have disrupted the reassembly effort Hatfield said.

Mississippi Department of Transportation’s district engineer, Darrell Broome, said bridge inspections after the accident showed the bridge sustained no damage.

Broome said the bridge is built with a buffer of concrete to prevent damage in the event of a strike.

Still dealing with the results of Monday’s accidents are officials with Grand Soleil Casino.

A clump of tightly packed debris has created a 10 to 12-foot barrier between the Grand Soleil casino boat and its concrete port, denying casino officials, for yet another day, access to the boat.

In an attempt to reposition the boat by tugboat Wednesday afternoon, casino officials found the debris to be an insurmountable obstacle, Marketing Director Baxter Lee said.

“The tug attempted to push the boat against the concrete pier, but it couldn’t push the front of the boat (where the ramp needs to be) because it was packed so tightly,” Lee said.

Attempts to dislodge the debris proved to be nothing that could be easily remedied.

“We’ve actually got a couple of contractors looking at it,” Lee said.

Once the debris is removed, the ramp can be replaced and access to the boat can be reached.

Lee said it shouldn’t take long to clear the area of its trash and driftwood.

“It should take more than a couple of hours, in my opinion,” he said.

He said he was uncertain of the cost to clean up the area, but he realizes this is just the nature of doing business on the river.

“I know it’s something that’s routinely dealt with the river, it’s not something uncommon,” Lee said.

However, dealing with the cleanup has become slightly complicated due to a few elements.

“It’s really kind of a simple process, but we’re just talking about a big boat, a lot of debris and a high river so a simple process becomes a little complicated,” he said.

Until the debris can be cleared, the boat can be repositioned and the ramp put on place to allow for access, the extent of the damage caused by the runaway barge is unknown.

Earlier reports that water was entering the boat are untrue, but the extent of the damage remains unknown.

The boat can be accessed via a bucket-like forklift but is only being utilized by boat workers.

Lee said this was not a conducive means for entering and exiting the boat as far as inspecting the damage goes.