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Bulk carrier hits boat, drawbridge in Green Bay

Jul 17, 2017 10:10 AM

Kaye E. Barker reportedly encountered more current than expected in the Fox River

Courtesy Interlake Steamship Co.

(GREEN BAY, Wis.) — An outbound bulk carrier struck a docked powerboat and bridge Sunday in downtown Green Bay, Wis., while backing out of the Fox River.

The laker Kaye E. Barker was in ballast after offloading coal at a nearby terminal when it hit the the recreational boat and fendering along the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge. The accident occurred at about 1530. The ship was not damaged and its 22 crew were not injured.

Local media reported the drawbridge was left in the open position after impact but reopened less than a day after the accident. Details about possible damage to the span were not available Monday.

Tom Wynne, vice president and general counsel of vessel operator Interlake Steamship Co., said Kaye E. Barker’s captain encountered more current than expected while transiting the bridge, pushing the 767-foot vessel to port. It hit the bridge’s eastern fender roughly amidships.

“He got set down when he wasn’t expecting to get set down, applied full bow thruster, pushing wash to port to try to move the bow to starboard,” Wynne said in a phone interview, noting the ship was backing at about 1 knot.

The ship crushed the powerboat, which was docked at the CityDeck landing along the Fox River’s eastern bank. No one was aboard at the time.

“We are sorry for this unfortunate incident and the damage that occurred,” the company said in a Facebook post Sunday night, noting that it is cooperating with the U.S. Coast Guard investigation.

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Nash said the ship struck the bridge fender, not the span itself. The Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge is a double-leaf bascule bridge, meaning it is has two sides that open to allow vessels to pass through. The bridge carries Main Street traffic to and from the city’s downtown.

A Coast Guard spokesman based in Cleveland declined to comment on key details of the case, citing the ongoing investigation. As of midday Monday the vessel was docked at a Fox River terminal in Green Bay.

Interlake Steamship, based outside Cleveland, operates a fleet of Great Lakes ships, including the 1,013-foot Paul R. Tregurtha, the largest ship on the lakes.

To view a CBSDWF.com video of the incident, click here.

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