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Barge collides with Pelican Island Causeway in Texas, causing damage and oil spill

Barge slams into Texas bridge
Barge slams into Texas bridge, causing significant damage 02:10

A barge has collided with the Pelican Island Causeway in Galveston, Texas, damaging the bridge, closing the roadway to all vehicular traffic and causing an oil spill. 

The collision occurred at around 10 a.m. local time. Galveston officials said in a news release that there had been no reported injuries. Video footage obtained by CBS affiliate KHOU appears to show that part of the train trestle that runs along the bridge has collapsed.

The ship broke loose from its tow and drifted into the bridge, according to Richard Freed, the vice president of Martin Midstream Partners L.P.'s marine division. Freed said the ship was owned and operated by Martin Operating Partnership L.P., a subsidiary of Martin Midstream Partners, and said that personnel were at the scene. 

The captain piloting the vessel had more than 20 years of maritime experience, Freed said. 

The site of the collision seen Wed., May 15, 2024. CBS affiliate KHOU

Emergency management officials and state officials have responded to the scene, along with members of the Galveston police and fire departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Texas Department of Transportation. 

The collision caused a spill of vacuum gas oil, which can be used to make transportation fuels and other byproducts, according to the Galveston Office of Emergency Management. The agency said that the oil had been visually confirmed in the water and said that about 6 1/2 miles of intracoastal waterway had been closed. The U.S. Coast Guard is responding to the spill, and will determine its extent and initiate "containment and cleanup processes," officials said. 

The barge has a capacity of about 30,000 gallons, officials said. The amount that has leaked out is unknown, but Freed said a "limited amount of product" spilled into the waterway. 

"At this time, there is no product leaking from the barge," Freed said. 

The collision also led to a brief power outage on Pelican Island, Galveston officials said on social media. Secondary power has been restored, officials said. 

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday after she delivered testimony before the House Transportation Committee about the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy urged bridge operators not to delay safety reviews.

"Don't wait," Homendy said. "If you have such a bridge, look at how that traffic has changed over time. Make sure you have the right protections in place."

The bridge connects Pelican Island, a community of about 9,000 people, to Galveston, Texas. Pelican Island is also home to Texas A&M University at Galveston. 

Officials said that engineers from the Texas Department of Transportation will "inspect the roadway and determine if there is damage." The bridge will remain closed until it is deemed safe to use. 

The barge remains at the scene of the collision. Freed said that Martin Midstream Partners has engaged a salvage company to assist in removing the barge from the area. 

The incident comes almost seven weeks after a vessel rammed into the Key Bridge in the Port of Baltimore, collapsing a large section of the bridge and killing six construction workers.

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