KY bridge struck by cargo ship has history of problems

 

The Channel 4 I-Team is piecing together information about a history of problems at a southern Kentucky bridge that was struck by a cargo ship.

The Eggner's Ferry Bridge was an old bridge, built in the 1930s, and one factor in the investigation may be whether the crews on the cargo ship could see any lights on the bridge.

The Delta Mariner took out a 322-foot segment of the bridge Thursday during the darkness of night.

Friday, Kentucky officials said navigational lighting will be part of their investigation.

"We understand there was a problem with the lights, but of course, it's yet to be determined, how all of this comes together," said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock.

Channel 4 has learned missing lights have been a problem in the past on this bridge, and as recently as two weeks ago, a tug operator reported to the Coast Guard that all the lights were out.

The Coast Guard sent out a warning to mariners on Jan. 12, saying "all navigational lights are reported extinguished," and to use caution.

According to the Coast Guard office in St Louis, as of Wednesday, at least the upstream lights were working on the bridge.

Bridge inspection reports show that the navigation lights have been a problem on the Eggner's Ferry Bridge going back at least four years, and the reports specifically mention bad welds.

Overall, bridge inspectors labeled the structure as structurally deficient, and it is a high priority for being replaced.

Kentucky had already planned to replace it before Thursday's collision.

"We have a project in the highway plan," Hancock said. "And we are also seeing how we can accelerate the construction of that bridge."

Authorities haven't released details yet on what the ship's captain said about why the Delta Mariner was well outside the main channel.

We do know the Delta Mariner was a fairly new vessel, built in 2000, and is designed to carry rocket booster cores for the space industry.

The captain's crew told the Coast Guard they had successfully negotiated the Eggner's Ferry Bridge many times before.

In November, a much smaller boat hit the same bridge after missing the main channel and hitting a bridge support.

The bridge wasn't damaged, and it quickly reopened.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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