26 barges break loose on Ohio River, cause damage to a marina

An investigation is underway after 26 barges broke loose on the Ohio River.

Pittsburgh Public Safety says police, fire and EMS responded to a report of barges breaking loose and floating uncontrolled down the Ohio River around 11:25 p.m. Saturday.

Police say 26 barges broke loose, 23 of which were loaded with dry cargo. None of the barges had hazardous materials on board.

As the barges went down the river, they crashed into floating docks at Peggy’s Marina, causing “extensive damage.”

PHOTOS: Loose barges damage Ohio River marina

Harry Henninger used to dock his boat at this Northside marina.

“We think Peggy’s is an institution to Pittsburgh, I’m just down to see if the gas dock is there and their support systems are here,” Henninger said. “These are peripheral docks that could be somewhat easy to replace.”

Of the barges that broke loose, 11 were pinned against the bank by Brunot Island and were being held by a tugboat. The other 14 continued down the river.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nine barges stopped at Emsworth Locks and Dams. Four other barges went over Dashields Locks and Dams in Moon Township before being secured. Of the barges at Emsworth, an empty one sank and another broke free because of the river conditions.

The Sewickley Bridge shut down on Saturday after the barge broke free.

“We design our locks and dams to be able to withstand any type of barge damage that could happen,” said Nicolas Melin, Commander of Pittsburgh District Army Corps of Engineers.

The barges are owned or operated by Campbell Transportation Company, which is just downstream of the West End Bridge.

The loose barges shut down the McKees Rock Bridge, Sewickley Bridge and West End Bridge for hours, and also temporarily stopped trail traffic to Brunot Island.

“Well, right now the situation is under control. So, there are no barges that are moving. Everything has been secured,” Melin said.

Several agencies, including the Coast Guard, Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement and local fire departments have been notified of the incident and are investigating.

The role of high water conditions and windy weather is still being determined.

“Well, certainly those conditions are present. If you look back historically during high wind and high water conditions, barge breakaways. That’s when the potential for them to happen,” Melin said.

The barges will be removed when the high water comes down, and then the dam will reopen to commerce traffic.

There were no reports of people hurt because of the loose barges.

WPXI reached out to the Coast Guard and Campbell Transportation Company for more information but has not yet heard back.

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