Ship Strikes Eggner Ferry Bridge; Causes Partial Collapse - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Ship Strikes Eggner Ferry Bridge; Causes Partial Collapse

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Robert Parker and his wife were on the bridge when the ship hit it. Robert Parker and his wife were on the bridge when the ship hit it.

MARSHALL, Ky. – The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation of a southwestern Kentucky bridge that collapsed after a cargo ship carrying aviation parts struck it.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said inspectors began the in-depth review of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at U.S. Highway 68 and Kentucky Highway 80 at daylight Friday.

Crews said it was a clean break.

Keith Todd from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said the three-story-high Motor Vessel Delta Mariner struck span "E" of the bridge around 8:10 p.m. Thursday. That span of bridge is 322 feet long.

PHOTOS: Eggner Ferry Bridge Struck By Ship

Officials said the bridge is closed to traffic, causing vehicles needing to cross the Kentucky Lake reservoir and the Tennessee River to be detoured for dozens of miles. The Coast Guard also blocked access to boat traffic at the bridge site.

The Kentucky Transportation Company is working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to determine if river traffic can be established under the main channel span.

Officials with Marshall County said the parts of the bridge collapsed into water and also became attached to the ship.

Four vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collision. No one was hurt.

"They were able to stop prior to any collision or any incident. They were able to warn other motorists on both sides of the bridge. They were able to exit, with the assistance of law enforcement, the bridge safely," said Lt. Brent White with the Kentucky State Police.

Robert Parker said he and his wife were driving over the bridge when it was hit.

Todd said there were 20 crew members aboard the vessel. None of the crew was hurt, but they remain on ship. They will test the captain for drugs and alcohol as part of normal procedure.

The Delta Mariner is operated by Foss Marine. The ship was in route from Decatur, Alabama to Port Canaveral, Florida. They were carrying Atlas rockets for NASA.

Kentucky State Police said the ship was too tall and too big to attempt to go under the bridge. They believe high water levels may have played a role in the crash.

The owners said they are cooperating with the Coast Guard, and said that the Mariner has been going under that bridge for the past 10 years without a problem.

Some reports said the navigation lights on the span of the bridge were out, making it hard to see it at night. Work had been slated to begin Friday to make repairs to some of the lighting on the bridge, and officials were investigating whether the lights were working properly.

The vessel was not severely damaged, and the cargo was not damaged and poses no safety hazard.

Emergency crews from the KYTC, Kentucky State Police, Coast Guard, Trigg County, and Marshall County responded to the scene.

The bridge is at the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Officials said around 2,800 vehicles cross the bridge each day, including students who attend Murray State University.

The bridge was part of a six year road plan to be replaced. Drivers are asked to take I-24 instead of the Trace.

Todd said the bridge opened to traffic in March 1932. The bridge was close for six months in 1943 to be raised to accommodate higher water levels when Kentucky Lake was impounded.

The bridge was also struck by a barge in November 2011, according to the Marshall County Daily. They reported the Motor Vessel Miss Katie was headed downstream when it mistakenly went under one of the approach spans, striking a support structure.

The Eggner Ferry Bridge and another that crosses nearby Lake Barkley is set to be replaced by four-lane bridges.  It's not clear how those projects will now be impacted.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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