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Barge strikes bridge twice; fourth strike in two months

No barges were lost when a northbound 15-barge tow struck pier 4 of the old U.S. 80 bridge Wednesday evening.

Bridge superintendent Herman Smith said the strike occurred about 5:14 p.m. Wednesday. The bridge was closed to rail traffic for about four hours Wednesday while the pier was inspected. It was reopened just before 10 p.m.

Smith said the Motor Vessel City of Louisville, operated by Excell Marine of Paducah, Ky., passed through the Interstate 20 bridge when the tow was caught in the current and pushed into the pier, striking it twice before passing through. The dry cargo barges were empty and none broke loose during the strike, he said.

The strike was the fourth in two months affecting one or both of the bridges spanning the Mississippi River. 

On April 27, the Motor Vessel Captain Buck Lay, operated by American Commercial Barge Lines of Jeffersonville, Ind., was pushing a tow of 15 full and 13 empty barges that was seven barges long with four across, hit the U.S. 80 bridge and broke apart with some barges hitting the I-20 bridge.

The tow had passed the I-20 bridge when the current caught it and pushed it into the old U.S. 80 bridge.

A video of the strike showed the tow clearing the I-20 bridge and passing under the old U.S. 80 bridge when the current caught it. As the fifth barge passed under the bridge, the current began pushing the tow toward the Mississippi shore.

The tow initially struck pier 4 of the U. S. 80 bridge then slid sideways, striking piers 2 and 3 simultaneously and breaking apart. The barges drifted south, striking piers W-1, E-1 and E-2 on the I-20 bridge. None of the barges sank.

April 14, the light mast of the Motor Vessel Crimson Duke pushing a 24-barge tow struck the underside of the I-20 bridge. The incident forced Louisiana State Police to close the westbound lane of the bridge until it was inspected by engineers.

April 11, the Motor Vessel Blake Benton, operated by Marquette Transportation of Paducah, Ky., pushing a southbound 25-barge tow struck pier 4 on the old Highway 80 bridge.

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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