Biloxi Bridge Span Collapses after Barge Strike

March 20, 2009
Rescue crews said there were no injuries.

BILOXI, miss. --

A portion of the Popps Ferry Bridge in Biloxi collapsed Friday morning when it was struck by a barge attempting to pass beneath the structure.

One vehicle -- which was unoccupied -- fell into the water. Rescue crews on the scene report no injuries.

The accident happened about 7:30 Friday morning. Conditions were calm at the time.

Raw Video: Aerial View Of Bridge Collapse

Last year, the City of Biloxi took steps toward expanding and replacing the bridge, which is a traditional split-lift drawbridge spanning Biloxi Bay west of Interstate 110. The bridge underwent major repairs after Hurricane Katrina.

"It made a loud noise when the bridge fell, and also vibrations," John Blakely, who lives nearby but did not see the collapse, said. "You could feel it, like an earthquake ... I didn't think much about it because people are going over the bridge all the time."

Assistant Police Chief Rodney McGilvary told the SunHerald that the operator of the tug boat that struck the bridge is on his vessel awaiting rescue and two other boats in the area appear to be taking on water.

The bridge tender, identified by Mayor A.J. Holloway as Margie Johnson, works out of a small office on the bridge. The 21-year city employee was trapped but was able to use a cat walk designed for an emergency escape to reach the waiting hands of rescue personnel , McGilvary said. Firefighters used two ladders to help her leave the bridge.

Authorities said the bridge-tender was "a little shook up," but she's OK. City officials have called for engineers to review the damages.

Traffic is being diverted on both sides of the bridge.

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