Visiting team barely misses catastrophy

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer

 

Students were glancing out of the windows, staring off into the serene landscape of a freight ship’s lights piercing the dark abyss of Kentucky Lake.

At 8:05 p.m. on Jan. 26, a bus carrying student-athletes and personnel crossed over the Eggner Ferry Bridge.

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga men’s tennis team and staff, disembarked and checked into Kenlake State Resort Park at 8:10 p.m., clueless of what had transpired behind them.

Moments after the team crossed the bridge a 322-foot section of the structure fell into the lake and onto the bow of the Delta Mariner, as the freight ship had struck a support column and forced the road to give way.

Carlos Garcia, in his 11th year as UT-Chattanooga’s men’s tennis coach, said the accident had to have happened less than 10 minutes before his team unloaded from the bus.

“It was close to 8:10, 8:15 p.m. when we checked in,” Garcia said. “By the time we crossed that part (and checked in), it must have happened.”

Stephen Crofford, junior on the team, said he could see the ship coming close as the bus passed over.

“We were coming across the river and I saw the barge as I was looking off on to the left-hand side,” he said. “You could see what looked like two lights way out on the edge as we crossed over the bridge.”

Since the accident, Kentucky Department for Transportation has re-routed all traffic through I-24 north of Murray and US-62 south of Murray until a full investigation is complete.

Both detours are an estimated 30-35 minute addition to the trip for anyone, including all visiting athletic teams, trying to reach Murray in a timely fashion and will affect Murray State athletic teams as well.

No time-table has been determined as to when or if the bridge can be repaired and traffic resumed.