Witness talks to KATV about barge incident

Picture by KATV viewer Klane Hanson

NORTH LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The I-30 river bridge had to be closed for several hours Friday night, following barges that got loose. Officials say the protective barrier around the bridge did its job and kept the containers from damaging the bridge.

Arguably no one had a better view than Klane Hanson and his friends. They were standing on the Junction Bridge at about 7:30 p.m., it is the pedestrian bridge by the Rivermarket.

They were close enough see crew members in the cabin of the boat as it went under the pedestrian bridge. Hanson says the boat got their attention because the crew blew the horn.

They noticed the boat was carrying a lot of containers. He says, as the nose of the barges started to go under the I-30 bridge, the cabin was still clearing the pedestrian bridge he was standing on. "About the time the boat went under the walkway bridge, you could hear that he had floored it and really put the gas down. Black smoke came bellowing out and that is when it really grabbed my attention because you could tell that wasn't normal."

Hanson says several barges successfully made it past the protective device. At that point everything was intact but he could see it was close. The impact was loud and caused water to spray up between the containers. "I would say the fourth or fifth container started to rub the barrier. The pressure of it pushed to the next container, caught the barrier and it was a really hard impact. He continued to push it on through the I-30 bridge and when he did, that is when the front bowed to the left and it all scattered."

Five of the six downtown bridges were closed as a precaution during inspection Friday night. All the barges were collected and there were no injuries.

Officials with the Arkansas Waterways Commission went to the area Saturday morning and say the protective barrier did its job. Highway department officials will continue their inspection Monday. The main point, they say the bridge is safe.

Previous Story. Friday, August 23:

All of the river bridges are back open after at least four were closed down Friday night as a precaution after North Little Rock police said a tow boat's barges nearly hit the I-30 and Clinton bridges.

The tow boat was moving 10 barges. The operator first contacted authorities when he thought that two of those barges may have hit the bridges. State Police closed down the Main Street, Broadway and I-30 bridges as well as the Clinton pedestrian bridge so they could be inspected for safety before traffic continued traveling on them.

Authorities told Channel 7 News that the two barges only hit protection barriers, which are anchored into the bedrock and are immovable so that if something hits them, they will not hit the bridges. The barges have since been found and tied down so weekend travelers will not be affected by Friday's events.

There were no reports of injuries.