Investigation complete after near miss at I-40 bridge

Tuesday, July 27th 2004, 12:33 pm
By: News On 6

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) -- The U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Bureau of Investigation have completed investigations into a breakaway barge that came within minutes of striking the Interstate 40 bridge in eastern Oklahoma that collapsed two years ago, killing 14 people.

The Coast Guard investigation found that the barge's ties were cut and blamed vandalism for the July 13 incident, KFSM-TV in Fort Smith reported.

No charges have been filed in the incident, which reminded some of the tragic bridge collapse more than two years ago.

On May 26, 2002, a towboat rammed two barges into the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Okla., causing the roadway to collapse and throwing motorists into the river.

During the incident earlier this month, authorities closed down one eastbound lane and one westbound lane on Interstate 40 and were prepared to close the bridge entirely if the barge got too close.

Marvin Daily, whose crew brought the barge under control, said the breakaway barge could have presented a dangerous situation.

"If it had gotten to the I-40 bridge, it probably would have hit an off span, not the center of the bridge with the bridge protectors, and if that had happened, it could have been another catastrophe," Daily said.

CGB Enterprises Inc., which owned the barge, released a statement Monday.

"It is our understanding from the authorities that the release of the barge has been classified by them as vandalism," the statement said. "There apparently was no physical evidence leading the investigation to the possible culprits. There was no damage to the barge or anyone's property."