4.19.2010

The Claiborne Avenue Bridge

On the afternoon of March 24, 2010 I was taking a nap as my relief captain Charles was taking the boat from Lake Pontchartrain towards the Mississippi River. He woke me up saying that he was stopping in a fleet and catching some lines on a barge (tying up to them) because someone had just driven their car off of the Claiborne Bridge into the River, so they were not allowing any water traffic in the area while rescue crews and other emergency watercraft were working; a usual practice in these circumstances. The blue bridge in the first picture is the Florida Avenue bridge, and it's in the closed position. The Claiborne bridge can be seen in the next picture, still open to marine traffic. The part that goes across way up top is actually the road bed of the bridge. These two bridges are called lift bridges since the road span (the part that cars drive over) "lifts" straight up. The Claiborne bridge had been in that position for a couple weeks while crews worked to repair the approach ramps to the bridge. If you look close you can see the construction equipment still parked on the approach ramp. After waiting, tied up at the fleet all day and night, we found out the next day that a man drove at a high rate of speed narrowly missing construction workers, and equipment and launched his car off the ramp. Charles said when a boat captain first reported that a car had come sailing off the bridge the lock masters didn't believe him. The car sank so fast that it was out of sight in seconds.
I took the picture above when they raised the Florida Av. bridge to allow a small Corps of Engineers boat to pass through and go to the accident sight. The Corps survey boat was equipped with very high tech sonar and bottom charting equipment. It is usually used to check dredging progress and requirements on the river bottom, so the Coast Guard asked them to find the car for them. With their powerful side-scanning sonar, they found the vehicle on the bottom of the canal in minutes. The next morning the M/V Trey Paul tugboat brought a crane barge to the scene and they pulled the car from the canal.

If ya click on the next picture to blow it up you can just make out the crane in position over the wreck, through the beams of the Florida Avenue bridge.



It was after 6 p.m. on the 25th before they allowed us to proceed through the bridges and on towards the River. We found out later that the guy in the car was said to be depressed on accounta the economy and fear of losing his job. Speakin' for ma self, I can't imagine life getting so depressing dat I'd go "waahoooing" ofn a bridge. 'Course das just me and I am a very lucky happy Cappy.
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