Watch CBS News

Crews work overnight to recover 26 barges that broke loose on Ohio River

Crews work overnight to recover 20+ barges that broke loose on Ohio River
Crews work overnight to recover 20+ barges that broke loose on Ohio River 03:04

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Twenty-six barges that broke loose from a towboat on the Ohio River Friday night are accounted for, according to the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Now, crews are recovering them after they damaged local marinas and rest at a local lock and dam.

Wayne Jones was sick to stomach Saturday morning, looking at what was left of the marina he's owned for more than 40 years.

"I could cry," Jones said. "It's my whole life."

Related: After breaking free on Friday night on the Ohio River, 26 barges now accounted for

The Branchport Boat Club in Pittsburgh's Chateau neighborhood was torn apart after runaway barges smashed the docks to pieces, just two weeks before it was set to open for the season.

"I built this place. It's my baby," Jones said. "I can't make no money."

Pittsburgh police said 26 barges got loose around 11:30 p.m. Friday, and started floating down the Ohio River.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard and Colonel Nicholas Melin with the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told KDKA that they broke away from a towboat by the West End Bridge.

Twenty-three barges were carrying dry cargo like coal, but no hazardous materials. The three others were empty.

At this time, they said there were no contamination or pollution reports, and no one was hurt.

Eleven of the barges got pinned against the riverbank by Brunot Island. Col. Melin said nine stopped at the Emsworth Dam. The last six went through the dam and were accounted for downstream. Officials believe one barge sunk between the Emsworth Dam and the Dashields Dam.

In the process, the barges took out Jones' club and a part of Peggy's Marina in Chateau.

"It's a nightmare, total absolute nightmare," Jones said. "What am I going to do?"

Col. Melin said the Emsworth Dam is functioning normally.

"There's no concerns with respect to passing water and the safety of the waterway at this time," Col. Melin said.

While a cause is unclear, he believes the high water levels played a factor.

Campbell Transportation Company owns and operates the barges, located just downstream from the West End Bridge.

In a statement to KDKA, a spokesperson for the company reiterated this happened under "strong currents due to flooding in the area." He also said their "immediate priority is ensuring public safety and minimizing any potential environmental impact."

"Those docks give me about $200,000 a year," Jones said.

As for Jones, he's said it will cost him just under $1 million to replace the marina. He's trying to figure out what to do for the 85 boats that planned to dock at Branchport on May 1, hoping he'll still get to take some of them in, in some way.

"Property is property, it'll get fixed," Jones said.

The incident remains under investigation as crews work to recover the barges.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.