A freighter, the Delta Mariner, carrying space rocket components from Decatur, Alabama, to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for NASA, and the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, got stuck along the Tennessee River after it hit a bridge on Thursday.
The five-storey high barge was too high to pass through a portion of the bridge. It crashed into it creating a 300-foot gap and became entangled in mangled metal and asphalt from the bridge overhead. CNN reports that Kentucky's transportation department said Thursday that the impact caused the bridge's "main truss span" to collapse on top of the boat. Search teams examined the damaged area and said there were no indications that vehicles passing on the bridge had fallen into the water.
According to Cmdr. Claudia Gelzer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit, "It's extremely fortunate that no one was hurt in the collapse. Our priority now is to ensure continued safety on the waterway and oversee the safe salvage of the cargo ship."
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, has said that work will the hastened to replace the bridge known as Eggner's Ferry Bridge. The bridge was build in the 1930s and handles a traffic of about 2,800 cars daily.
No injuries were reported in the accident, and the governor also said it was fortunate that no vehicle was on the bridge when the accident happened. Daily Mail reports that Robert Parker, 51, of Cadiz, Kentucky, said he and his wife were driving in the rain on the bridge around 8 p.m. when they suddenly noticed that part of the bridge was missing. He had to slam on his breaks to keep from driving over the edge. According to Fox News, Parker said: "All of a sudden I see the road's gone and I hit the brakes. It got close." Parker said his pickup was within five feet of the edge when it stopped.
Fox News reports that the Tennessee river route is the usual route of the boat, and it is not clear why the boat hit the bridge on that particular passage. The U.S. Coast Guard are, however, investigating the accident. The path of the boat, according to Fox News, takes it along the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, and then on to Florida's east coast.
According to Jessica Frye, spokesperson of the United Launch Alliance, the ship was carrying an Atlas booster and Centaur upper stage for an Air Force launch scheduled for April. CNN reports the boat was also carrying an inter-stage adapter for NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission scheduled for launch in August. CNN reports the cargo was not damaged.
The United Launch Alliance, which built the rocket parts in Alabama, said the 312-foot, 8,400-ton mariner hauls rocket parts it builds to launch stations in Florida and California.