AURORA, Ky. — State officials are inspecting what's left of a southwestern Kentucky bridge that partially collapsed when it was struck by a cargo ship that was too tall to pass under the structure.
Two spans of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at US 68 and Kentucky 80 were destroyed Thursday night by the Delta Mariner. No injuries were reported on the bridge or in the boat. There was no immediate word on the impact closing the bridge would have on trucking.
However, officials say 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 ship was traveling upriver toward the Kentucky Lock and Dam when it hit the aging steel bridge, which was built in the 1930s and handles about 2,800 vehicles a day.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says inspectors began the in-depth review of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at U.S. Highway 68 and Kentucky Highway 80 at daylight Friday.
On Friday morning, the front of the ship remained tangled with steel from the bridge and hunks of asphalt from the roadway. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials said inspectors began an in-depth review of the bridge at daylight.
"There is a point where they may have to disassemble the structure completely or use a crane to move the debris," Jim LeFevre, highway department chief engineer, told The Paducah Sun. "That ship is going to be there for some time."
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock were planning to speak about the bridge collapse Friday morning at a Land Between the Lakes campground.
Robert Parker was on the bridge Thursday night and said he had to slam on his brakes when he saw a section missing ahead of him.
"All of a sudden I see the road's gone and I hit the brakes," said Parker, who lives in Cadiz. "It got close."
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Parker said he stopped his pickup within five feet of the missing section. He said he didn't feel the vessel strike the bridge but "felt the bridge was kind of weak."
Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said he believes most of the navigational lights were functioning on the bridge at the time of the impact.
"Our people talked to the Coast Guard as recently as Tuesday to update them on the navigational lights, and we believe most of them were working at the time of this wreck," Todd said. "Although the green bridge marker lights on the bridge should have been visible from both sides of the bridge."
The 312-foot-long cargo ship was built to navigate shallow waterways and was carrying empty rocket booster cores, Coast Guard Lt. Jason Franz told The Sun.
The bridge opened in 1932, connecting Trigg County and Marshall County at the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The transportation cabinet said the bridge was in the process of being replaced, and preconstruction work began months ago.
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