Barge Slams Into Bridge In Galveston, Texas, Causing Oil Spill

Two workers were rescued and more may still need to be evacuated from Pelican Island. For now, bridge access to and from the island is shut down.
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A cleanup operation has begun after a barge struck a bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, spilling oil into the bay.

The Seawolf Parkway bridge, which provides the only road connecting Pelican Island and Galveston Island within the city of Galveston, was struck by the ship around 9:50 a.m.

There were no initial reports of injuries, according to a statement posted on the city’s Facebook page. ABC13 reported two crew members on the barge were rescued after either being thrown from the vessel or jumping off themselves. The city added evacuations from the island would be likely amid reports that workers were still trapped on the island.

The collision was caused when a tugboat lost control of two barges it was pushing while backing out of a fuel storage terminal. A barge that came loose crashed into a pillar supporting the unused railroad side of the bridge, spilling oil into surrounding waters. It’s not clear how much oil the barge was carrying.

Oil spills into the surrounding waters after a barge hit a bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, May 15.
Oil spills into the surrounding waters after a barge hit a bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, May 15.
via AP

The road remains closed while officials assess the damage to the bridge, which was built in the 1960s. The closure is causing major disruption since Pelican Island is home to a large shipyard, Texas A&M University of Galveston and Seawolf Park, a former immigration station that now attracts tourists to its fishing pier and decommissioned U.S. Navy vessels.

The city’s statement said the U.S. Coast Guard is determining the extent of the oil spill and will “initiate the containment and cleanup processes.”

The statement said: “Engineers from the Texas Department of Transportation are also enroute to inspect the roadway and determine if there is damage.

“The bridge will remain closed until it is deemed safe to use.”

A tugboat works to maneuver a barge away from the Pelican Island Bridge in Galveston, Texas.
A tugboat works to maneuver a barge away from the Pelican Island Bridge in Galveston, Texas.
Jennifer Reynolds via AP

The incident comes just weeks after a cargo ship crashed into the Francis Key Bridge in Baltimore, killing six construction workers.

David Flores, a bridge superintendent with the Galveston County Navigation District, told The Associated Press that the barges hit the bridge and two telephone poles.

“The current was very bad, and the tide was high. He lost it,” Flores said.

He added the tugboat was pushing what are called bunker barges, which are fuel barges for ships.

Oil spills into the surrounding waters after a barge hit a bridge in Galveston, Texas.
Oil spills into the surrounding waters after a barge hit a bridge in Galveston, Texas.
via AP

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