>Coast Guard Closes Elizabeth River and Investigates Bridge Allision

>The Coast Guard has closed the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to vessel traffic in the vincinity of the Gilmerton Bridge until the river can be cleared of debris.

Yesterday afternoon, a tug and barge allided and significantly damaged the bridge’s west side fendering system. The fendering system, although significantly damaged, successfully protected the bridge’s structure and the bridge remains open to vehicluar traffic. Coast Guard personnel from both the Fifth District’s Bridge Branch and Sector Hampton Roads are working with the Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Chesapeake and the responsible towing vessel to clear the waterway of debris and install a temporary fendering system until permanent repairs can be made. Once completed (potentially as early as late this afternoon), the waterway will be reopened for both recreational and commercial use.

Additionally, Sector Hampton Roads is investigating the cause of the allision to determine if, among other things, a mechanical failure, or misconduct or negligence on the part of the towing vessel operator contributed in any way to causing the incident.

For information on the Coast Guard’s marine safety efforts particulary relating to towing vessel safety, bridge allisions, and marine casualty investigations, please review the Summer 2006 and 2008 editions (under archives) of the Coast Guard’s Proceedings of the Marine Safety and Security Council.