Coast Guard releases its report into the fatal I-40 bridge collapse

Tuesday, August 17th 2004, 11:16 am
By: News On 6

New developments in the deadly collapse of the I-40 bridge near Webbers Falls.

The News on 6 has obtained a copy of the first official report by the US Coast Guard on the accident. The Coast Guard found the tugboat company did, in fact, violate the law.

It's been more than two years since the barge slammed into the I-40 bridge, sending a 500-foot section of road into the Arkansas River. In the end, 14 bodies, including that of a three-year-old little girl, were pulled from the sunken rubble, five people survived.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood has combed through the 99 page US Coast Guard report and has more on the charges and possible penalties facing the tugboat captain and owner.

The report doesn't nail down the cause of the I-40 bridge collapse, but it does shed more light on the events that led up to the accident. We now know the tugboat captain and the owner of the tugboat "Magnolia Marine" violated federal law.

The tugboat captain has long claimed that he blacked out right before the tugboat slammed into the I-40 bridge. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating exactly what happened and why. But the US Coast Guard reports that the tugboat captain didn't have enough rest in the day before the accident.

Federal law prohibits a mariner from working more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period. The US Coast Guard found the tugboat captain worked more than 14 hours in the day before the accident.

Now the Magnolia Marine Transport Company is facing two federal law violations. One for allowing the captain to work without enough rest, another for working the captain for more than 12 hours. Each carries a $10,000 penalty.

Magnolia Marine's attorney says he hasn't seen the Coast Guard report and refused to comment on the violations or the penalty.