Cargo Ship Strikes Kentucky Bridge, Bridge Collapses

The M/V Delta Mariner, on a good day, being loaded with a rocket booster. Photo: Boeing

A bridge in western Kentucky has partially collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship Thursday night.  According to officials, two spans of the U.S. 68/KY 80 bridge over Kentucky Lake collapsed across the bow of the M/V Delta Mariner after the vessel struck the bridge at approximately 8:10pm Thursday.  Authorities have said that there have been no reported injuries and they do not believe any vehicles fell from the bridge.  U.S. Coast Guard added that the M/V Delta Mariner was not carrying any hazardous cargo.

The 312-foot long and 8,000 horsepower M/V Delta Mariner, owned and operated by Foss Maritime, is used to carry Boeing rocket components, including rocket booster cores, for the Boeing Delta IV rocket program.  The versatile vessel is designed to navigate shallow inland waterways as well as the open ocean, and generally hauls rocket components approximately 550 miles from the Boeing factory in Decatur, Alabama down the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to the Gulf of Mexico, according to Foss’ website.

State officials say that the bridge, formally the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, was designed so that if it were struck that only portions of the structure would fail.  Inspectors estimate the gap in the bridge to be approximately 300 feet wide.

“We are grateful that this wreck caused no injuries or loss of life. Since that bridge carries 2,800 cars every day, we were very fortunate that no one was on the span at that time,” said Gov. Beshear.

The two-lane bridge is located at the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and has been open to traffic since 1932. In 1943 the elevation of the bridge was raised when the Tennessee River was impounded to create Kentucky Lake.

A Transportation Cabinet spokesman told the Associated Press he believes most of the navigational lights were functioning on the bridge at the time of the impact.  Other reports have stated that high water may have played a role in the crash as the ship has passed under the bridge many times without a problem.

On average, the bridge carries approximately 2,800 vehicles across the lake per day. Perhaps ironically, the bridge, along with the nearby bridge over Lake Barkle, is currently in the process of being replaced. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says that preconstruction work, including geotechnical drilling, began months ago.