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Barges Break Loose, Cause Damage In Pittsburgh Marina

Boston Police and Coast Guard boats search the water for the body of Charles Stuart, who police believed jumped from the Tobin Bridge in Boston, Jan. 4, 1990. On Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, Boston Mayo

Overnight on Friday, a marina in Pittsburgh faced significant damage as 26 barges, primarily loaded with dry cargo, broke loose and drifted uncontrolled down the Ohio River. This incident led to the closure of two Pittsburgh-area bridges located approximately 2.5 miles apart.

The McKees Rocks Bridge was promptly shut down as a precautionary measure by the McKees Rocks police, who expressed concerns about potential contact with the bridge's sub-structure. Similarly, the West End Bridge was closed in both directions, and rail traffic on the rail bridge to Brunot Island was also halted by Pittsburgh city officials.

Fortunately, no hazardous materials were present on the loose barges. Of the 26 barges, 23 were loaded with dry cargo, including coal. Eleven of the barges were successfully located and secured against the river bank near Brunot Island with the assistance of a tugboat, while 14 continued downstream, and six passed over the Emsworth Dam.

Although there have been no reports of injuries to individuals, Peggy’s Harbor, a family-owned marina on the Ohio River, sustained damage due to the drifting barges. The extent of the damage to the marina remains unclear at this time.

The barges involved in the incident are owned or operated by the Campbell Transportation Company, situated downstream from the West End Bridge on the left descending bank of the Ohio River, as stated by Pittsburgh officials.

Authorities, including the Coast Guard, Pennsylvania State Police, and local first responders, have been alerted to the situation. The closed bridges will be reopened once safety assessments confirm that it is safe to do so.

This incident follows closely on the heels of the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, which occurred when a cargo vessel struck the bridge, resulting in the loss of six construction workers' lives and causing disruptions for commuters and workers in the area.

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