PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A runaway barge with 2,000 tons of coal rested snug against the Emsworth Lock and Dam since last Tuesday.

High and fast water on the back channel of the Ohio River has prevented moving it safely.

“They successfully extracted it from our dam,” says Jeff Hawk, of the Army Corps of Engineers. “Now they’re trying to figure out how to get it underneath this bridge.”

That was the tricky part. The clearance under the railroad bridge is only 14-feet.

“If it won’t fit under the bridge, they’re going to have to use this crane and lift those covers off and set them down on the barge,” Dave Sneberger, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said.

And so they did. A workboat and barge on one side of the bridge and the 350-horsepower “Lisa Jo” pushing the retrieved barge on the other side, a crane easily lifted the metal covers off the coal barge fore and aft.

The pilot house is the next thing to go. “The salvage company that had to come down here and extract this – that was contracted by the owner – had to actually remove the pilot house from their little workboat to get under this railroad bridge.”

Then it was just a matter of towing the barge under the bridge, reversing the process and taking it to Neville Island for inspection. But, the entire salvage operation is not quite over.

The last of four runaway barges sank directly under the railroad bridge. Its cargo of steel coils will have to be off-loaded first.

“And they’ll have to lift the barge with an A-frame, pick it up and then pump it out to float it again – that’s even more work,” Sneberger said.

But that’s a job for another day.


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