Two spans of the Eggner Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake collapsed Thursday after being struck by a cargo ship carrying aviation parts, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials said.
Keith Todd, public information officer for KTC District 1 and 2, said the U.S. Coast Guard reported that the Motor Vessel Delta Mariner struck the main span of the U.S. 68/KY 80 Eggner Ferry Bridge at about 8:10 p.m. The pilot reported he was running without any barges in tow. The captain also reported no vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the incident and that there were no injuries among the 20 crew members on board the vessel as of Thursday night. The tow boat was afloat and holding position just downstream from the bridge as officials investigated Thursday.
Todd was unable to say where the ship was traveling when it struck the bridge. He said KTC engineers were on the bridge late Thursday night to evaluate the stability of the bridge structure.
“We have asked police and emergency management on site to keep everyone off the bridge at this time,” Todd said in an email. “Engineers have moved up the approach spans and (are checking) each one to determine if there has been collateral damage from the initial impact. As they check each span and are assured it is safe for them to proceed up the bridge, they will move to the next span and check it until they get to the span that has been hit.”
“We have just confirmed that two spans of the bridge are down,” Todd continued. “A full evaluation to determine what repairs, if any, might be possible will likely take several days.”
Officials said the bridge was closed to traffic, causing vehicles needing to cross the Kentucky Lake reservoir and the Tennessee River to be detoured for dozens of miles, according to the Associated Press. The Coast Guard also blocked access to boat traffic at the bridge site.
Robert Parker, 51, of Cadiz, Ky., said he and his wife were traveling northbound on the highway after leaving his stepson’s house in Murray. They were driving in the rain along the darkened bridge about 8 p.m. when they suddenly noticed a missing 20-foot piece of the bridge, which at that section stands at least 20 feet above the water.
“All of a sudden I see the road’s gone and I hit the brakes,” he said. “It got close.”
Parker said he stopped his pickup within five feet of the missing section. Two cars behind him stopped on his bumper and he saw another car on the other side of the missing section stopped.
He said he didn’t feel the vessel strike the bridge but “felt the bridge was kind of weak.” They had to detour about 50 miles to return home to Cadiz.
Officials say about 2,800 vehicles travel daily on the bridge, which already was in the process of being replaced, although the new bridge has not been built yet. Motorists have been advised to take alternate routes, including Interstate 24 around the northern end of the national recreation area.