4 Barges Break Free, Hit Bridge Near Neville Island

MCKEES ROCKS (KDKA) – There is concern about the potential for a chemical spill in the Ohio River after several barges broke loose and struck a local bridge Wednesday morning.

According to emergency dispatchers, four barges broke free and struck a railroad bridge near Neville Island around 7 a.m.

According to sources, the Allegheny County Emergency Operation Center has been fully activated due to a potential benzene spill from one of the barges. The red barge in the picture below is the one carrying benzene. It is also believed to be about 70 to 80 percent full.

One of the other barges is still resting against the railroad bridge, while another took on water and sank around 11 a.m.

A fourth barge, which was carrying coal, broke free from the bridge and continued down the river toward the Emsworth Lock and Dam.

Officials were concerned that the barge would go over the dam. At the last minute, the barge turned and is now resting against the dam.

There is a tow boat in place should the barge turn and go over the dam. Pennsylvania State Police are also standing by to close the Neville Island and Sewickly Bridges, should the barge make it that far.

red barge 4 Barges Break Free, Hit Bridge Near Neville Island

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

At the moment, the biggest concern is the barge carrying benzene.

“The next concern is still our hazardous materials barge that we have on site here. That barge moved approximately three feet during that activity. Right now, our plan is still to hook on to that via a string of empty barges and a tow boat and pull that back upstream,” Alvin Henderson with Allegheny County Emergency services said.

The barge is not believed to be leaking based on a preliminary inspection done when crews first arrived.

“All morning our team of federal, local, state and the responsible party have been looking at a safe salvage plan to take the vessel off the bank and back into a shipyard for exam. This morning we did some preliminary investigation of the condition of the barge. Now, we’re ready to start moving a string of barges up to the barge and [hook up to it with wires] to safely bring it out underneath the bridge and bring it back up to a shipyard,” U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard Timme said.

Crews do not believe the barge is leaking based on their inspection.

“We’re dealing with a cargo of benzene, which is a toxic and flammable cargo. And we’re dealing with a risk situation that we would call, low probability, high consequence. It’s a bad thing if the benzene is released. The probablility is very low, but despite that, the precautions of federal, state and local, we’re all here today to take a look at it,” Cmdr. Timme said.

The biggest problem in the salvage efforts is that there is not enough clearance under the bridges for a tow boat to reach them directly.

coal barge 4 Barges Break Free, Hit Bridge Near Neville Island

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Students at the Sto-Rox Middle School and Elementary School have been moved to the high school as a precaution. Students will not be dismissed early and classes will be held as scheduled. However, if parents wish to pick up their children, they may do so.

There are no reports of damage to the bridge at this time.

The Fleming Park Bridge has been closed to traffic and motorists are being rerouted to Route 51.

Neville Road has also been closed and traffic has been rerouted to Grand Street.


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One Comment







    before the spelling police get me

    *evacuate i mean

  3. Airdoc says:

    This is not the Fleming Park Bridge, it is a train tressel next to the Fleming Park Bridge.

  4. REC says:

    Luck it did not get to the Lock and Dam about a half mile down river.

    Also, where is the water intake – I thought it was on the back channel.

  5. d-loc says:

    this might make the neville island natives normal let it go.

  6. Bob Wright says:

    Neville Island is a Chemical Wasteland…..with a hockey rink and speed traps…….Benzene could be an improvement for sure

    1. Susan says:

      Bob Wright …Nice… my husband works there, thanks for your good thoughts for him and the many other families that live there. I hope your family is never in danger so that you won’t have to be worried for their safety. Also, it isn’t just a hockey rink. It is an entire sports facility where many families and children go to enjoy themselves. Your care for them is overwhelming! Think before you write please.

      1. Toxic Avenger says:

        What a drama queen. Your poor husband. I hope he pulls through this.

    2. Shawn Austad says:


  7. DR. Heffner says:

    Obama will blame Bush for this

  8. Gaye says:

    I work on Neville Island and am concerned about the damages to the river and the people (who are great) that live here. Benzene is not something to play around with or joke about. Let’s hope this gets resolved soon.

  9. steelergirl917 says:

    Jan just ignore these ignorant people. Hope all is well there.

  10. Scared says:

    I am very concerned for eveyone every one on neville island i am praying for all of you and I’m scared but we have to have faith!!!!!!

  11. A-Rud says:

    the tea partty will blame obama for this. Probablythe EPA, too.

    1. A-Rud says:


    2. Hoss says:

      And the lefty-left libs will blame the GOP, big business, and Bush. So there, too. Nanny-nanny boo-boo.

  12. TIMSTER says:


  13. steve says:

    Do you know if Neville island is going to be shut down due to the barges because I work in Neville island.

  14. poop says:

    It’s drug test time.

  15. Eyes Wide Open says:

    Come to beautiful Neville Island. We have evrything to fullfill your island vacation getaway. Fish in our mystical waters. If your fish has two heads and 3 eyes, that means it’s your lucky day. Bowl and skate at our islands two facilities. Both are lovingly decorated to look like 1978. Remember, that chemical after taste in your mouth means you had a good time.

  16. Disgusted at the stupidity of others! says:

    Really people are making jokes about this and worrying who’s going to get blamed…..REALLY?
    There are people who happen to live on Neville Island and in Pittock (where I live) right where these barges are. Instead of trying to be funny try putting yourself into the situation and then let’s see how funny you really think it is!

  17. GO PENS says:

    Ryan Malone did this!!!

  18. zep says:

    Thanks for all the people who support the islanders. It is a great place. The sports center is always very busy doesn’t any one remember what it is built on? Accidents happen!

  19. Dawn says:

    I live as a single mother on neville island…all these.idiots
    Being ridiculously ignorant…god hope u dont have to deal
    With a situation like this..or one of your family members

  20. DeBarge says:

    could be worse, the barge might have got stuck in the rocks

  21. Arlene Mercurio says:

    This story leaves too many unanswered questions. I want to know what company was shipping the benzene and whom they were shipping it to – and for what purpose ? Is the shipping of benzene and similare hazardous chemicals a common occurrance on our rivers? Does this have anything to do with the natural gas industry?

    1. Connect says:

      Well as you know the chemical plants on the island use chemicals similar to that and if not the same ones. I’m going to say yes that is a common occurrence seeing how many companies on Neville Island are chemical plants. I don’t know if you have ever driven over Neville Island but the chemical smell is pretty bad.

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