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Chemical Laden Barges Ram Bridge, Closing Stretch of I-10

October 15, 1986

BUTTE LA ROSE, La. (AP) _ Three barges carrying a highly flammable gasoline additive rammed a bridge Tuesday, forcing a five-hour closure of a 50-mile stretch of interstate highway, authorities said.

″We have three barges reported wrapped around one of the bridge pillars,″ Coast Guard spokesman Keith Spangler said.

State police initially said two of the barges had ruptured in the accident just after 1 p.m. as the tugboat Chico was pushing them, but troopers said later that nothing toxic spilled and that the span was reopened within five hours.

No injuries were reported.

The bridge, which is part of Interstate 10 and located above Whiskey Bay, would be closed again at midmorning Wednesday while the barges are floated away, said Trooper John Futral.

The accident occurred about halfway between Baton Rouge and Lafayette and traffic between those cities had been rerouted for fear of igniting fumes, Trooper Ed Comeaux said.

The entire stretch of I-10 was closed because the two cities were the best places for detours, Comeaux said. The highway crosses the Atchafalaya Spillway, an extensive swampy area with few roads.

Authorities said they had tentatively identified the chemical as liquid toluene, an extremely flammable substance with a low flashpoint. But officials said that had not yet been confirmed.

The Coast Guard sent a patrol boat to the scene and the state sent emergency response officials.

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