Astonishing pictures of a hulking freighter wearing mangled pieces of a steel bridge on its bow after a collision in southwestern Kentucky Thursday night emerged today.
The images show the 312-foot Delta Mariner idles, still partially in the bridge’s path, and clearly looks much too large to fit beneath the aging Eggner Ferry Bridge, which crosses the Kentucky Lake Reservoir.
The cargo vessel was carrying space rocket parts for the United Launch Alliance, intended for a vehicle that was scheduled to be shot into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Two sections of the bridge, which is the only route across the lake and the Tennessee River, collapsed after the crash.
Unbelievably no one was injured after the collision, though one driver described the harrowing experience of slamming on his breaks and stopping just a few feet short of oblivion after finding the bridge suddenly stopped.
Robert Parker, 51, of Cadiz, Kentucky, said he and his wife were traveling northbound on the highway after leaving his stepson’s house in Murray, Kentucky. They were driving in the rain along the darkened bridge around 8pm when they suddenly noticed a missing 20-foot piece of the bridge, which at that section stands at least 20 feet above the water.
“All of a sudden I see the road’s gone and I hit the brakes,” Robert Parker said. “It got close.”
Robert Parker said he stopped his pickup within five feet of the missing section. Two cars behind him stopped on his bumper and he saw another car on the other side of the missing section stopped.
State officials are inspecting what’s left of the bridge.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says inspectors began the in-depth review of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at US Highway 68 and Kentucky Highway 80 at daylight Friday.
“At this point, we don’t believe there was any loss of life,” said Keith Todd, spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Keith Todd said there also were no injuries on board the boat. He was unable to say where the ship was traveling when it struck the bridge.
Officials said the collapse meant vehicles needing to cross the Kentucky Lake reservoir and the Tennessee River had to be detoured for dozens of miles. The Coast Guard blocked access to boat traffic at the bridge site.
Robert Parker said he didn’t feel the vessel strike the bridge but “felt the bridge was kind of weak”. They had to detour about 50 miles to return home to Cadiz.
Officials say about 2,800 vehicles travel daily on the bridge, which was due to be replaced.