NTSB cites lack of ‘decision point' in Atchafalaya bridge strike
Professional Mariner|October - November 2020
Edna T. Gattle and the spud barge Terral 2 approached the Union Pacific Railway Bridge over the Atchafalaya River when the towboat’s captain requested the swing bridge open.
Casey Conley

Twenty-one minutes later, as the tow came within a half-mile of the span, it was still closed.

The captain backed down and moved several hundred feet upriver against a current that set the tow to starboard. The bridge opened, and he made a new approach from a position closer to the right bank than his first attempt.

The captain lost control of the tow and the 200-foot Terral 2 hit the bridge in several places at about 2348 on April 24, 2019. The bridge, at mile 41.5 near Krotz Springs, La., closed to rail traffic for three days and required $500,000 in repairs. No one was injured and no pollution was reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) acknowledged the bridge took longer than average to open. But investigators also determined the captain should have established a “decision point” to slow down or stop if the bridge remained closed.

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