NTSB reports on Cooperative Spirit contact with bridge

Written by Nick Blenkey
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NTSB seal

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its report on the March 15, 2020, incident in which the tow of the 1975-built American River Transportation Company towing vessel Cooperative Spirit broke apart after a strike on the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge (see earlier story).

It was the second incident last year involving the Cooperative Spirit which, less than two months earlier, on January 26, 2020, had been involved in a fatal collision in which four crewmembers on the towing vessel RC Creppel were lost when the vessel capsized after being struck by the tow of the Cooperative Spirit.


In its bare bones executive summary of the March 15, 2020, incident, the NTSB says:

​“On March 15, 2020, about 0113 local time, the towing vessel Cooperative Spirit, pushing a 29-barge tow, was transiting downstream on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 121.6 near Luling, La., when the port side of the tow struck the eastern tower pier of the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge. The tow broke apart and began floating downriver. One of the barges sank, while the remaining barges were recovered by the Cooperative Spirit and other towing vessels in the area.

“No pollution or injuries were reported. Multiple barges in the tow, along with other barges moored along the river banks that were struck by drifting barges, were damaged and required repairs. Two barges were determined to be total constructive losses. The estimated cost of damages to the barges and cargo was $1.65 million.”


​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the Cooperative Spirit tow with a pier of the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge was the pilot not effectively compensating for the strong current while navigating a turn and approaching the bridge in high-water conditions.


As ever, there is rather more to this incident than can be learned from the executive summary. For the rest of the story, download the full NTSB report.

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