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Officials Seek $7M in Bridge Collapse

Monday, January 7, 2013

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Kentucky officials are seeking $7.1 million after emergency repairs were required when a cargo ship struck a bridge, essentially cutting it in half and causing the span to collapse last January.

The Eggners Ferry Bridge collapsed about 8 p.m. CT Jan. 26, 2012, when the cargo vessel M/V Delta Mariner struck and tore away a 322-foot-long span of the 80-year-old bridge, which carries U.S. 68 and KY 80 over Kentucky Lake.

When the 312-foot-long, 8,200-ton cargo carrier vessel slammed into the bridge, it was carrying aviation and aerospace components for the U.S. Air Force and NASA.

Although several vehicles were on the bridge at the time, no injuries were reported. More than 2,600 vehicles use the bridge each day.

SurfKY News Group

A cargo vessel slammed into a Kentucky bridge last January, necessitating more than $7 million in emergency repairs. KYTC is now suing for those damages.

Claims Total New Bridge

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is seeking the largest amount out of a total of $7,286,934.51 in claims filed against Foss Maritime.

KYTC filed claims for $7 million in property damage and $186,896.63 in consequential damages.

Foss Maritime,which owns the Delta Mariner, has asked a federal judge to rule that it was not responsible for causing the collapse, because some of the bridge's lights were not working.

Foss Maritime made the claims public on Thursday (Jan. 3).

"This is a customary practice when maritime casualties occur," said company spokeswoman Suzanne Lagoni. "Today Foss, in order to comply with applicable procedural rules that govern maritime claims, filed with the court a notice of all the claims that were received."

The amount being sought by KYTC would cover the total of an emergency contract Gov. Steve Beshear awarded last year to repair the bridge.

"Immediately after Foss' cargo ship hit the bridge, the Cabinet had to dispatch a considerable number of bridge engineers and inspectors to determine whether the other spans of the bridge were stable. That investigation included the hiring of a team of underwater inspectors," KYTC spokesman Chuck Wolfe told Law360.

To save time, KYTC made an emergency solicitation for bids to repair the bridge rather than follow its customary construction procurement process, in which a project is designed and put out for bids.

Liability, Lights Out

KYTC officials have acknowledged that some bridge lights were out at the time, but they said that the U.S. Coast Guard had issued warnings twice each day for the five days that the lights were out before the incident.

Workers had been repairing the lights on Jan. 24, 2012, when they had to stop due to rain. They planned to restart work on Jan. 27, 2012, according to court records.

On Feb. 14, 2012, Foss Maritime filed a complaint for exoneration from or limitation of liability that stated: "At that time, only one span of the Bridge was marked with navigational lights, with a green navigational light at the center of the span and with red lights on each pier. The remainder of the Bridge was dark."

Foss Maritime claims it should not be liable because the bridge lacked proper lighting. State officials say operators received multiple alerts.

"The bridge's lack of properly functioning navigational lighting for northbound commercial traffic channel span on the Tennessee River was the proximate cause of the allision," the complaint said.

Kentucky officials contend that the ship's operators failed to heed repeated warnings about the lights on the bridge from both the Coast Guard and a nearby vessel, which called the Delta Mariner to warn that it was probably too tall for the course it was on.

The state's attorneys have stated that despite crew members noticing the problem from four miles off, the Delta Mariner didn't slow from its speed of 11.5 mph. The crew could have used radio equipment, radar, electronic charts, software and other technology to chart a safe course but instead chose a route not marked for commercial vehicles, the state said.

Others Claims Filed

In addition to the state's claims, a local restaurant is seeking $33,864.62 for lost sales, and BellSouth Telecommunications LLC filed a claim for $59,321 for property damage.

Two local residents filed claims totaling nearly $7,000, and a third is seeking an unstated amount for economic losses and emotional damages.

A spokeswoman for Foss Maritime said claims had to be submitted by Dec. 12, 2012, and the company moved to stop any further claims from being filed.

Under maritime law, Foss Maritime doesn't have to sue another party and has instead asked a judge to rule on the extent of liability and to halt all other lawsuits and legal proceedings while that determination is made.

Foss Maritime's attorneys said that if the judge finds the company liable at all, it shouldn't be for more than the value of the boat and the freight. The boat was worth more than $13 million immediately after the crash and the freight was worth $227,900, but repairs will detract from the value.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Marine; Steel; Transportation

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