Highway Accident Report

Adopted: June 7, 1994
U.S. TOWBOAT CHRIS COLLISION
WITH THE JUDGE WILLIAM SEEBER BRIDGE
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
MAY, 28, 1993

NTSB Number: HAR-94/03
NTIS Number: PPB94-916203
PDF Document


SYNOPSIS
About 3:30 p.m. CDT on May 28, 1993, the towboat CHRIS, pushing the empty hopper barge DM 3021, collided with a support pier of the eastern span of the Judge William Seeber Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Judge William Seeber Bridge, known locally as the Claiborne Avenue bridge, carries Highway Route 39 over the New Orleans Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, known locally as the Industrial Canal. The impact severed bent 21, causing two approach spans (about 145 feet of bridge deck) and the two-column bent to collapse onto the barge and into the shallow waters of the canal. Two automobiles carrying three people fell with the four-lane bridge deck resulting in one death and serious injuries to the other two people. As a result of the accident, the canal was closed to navigation traffic for 2 days and the bridge was closed to vehicle traffic for 2 months.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable causes of the collapse of the Judge William Seeber Bridge to be (1) the towboat operator's poor judgment in leaving the wheelhouse of the unsecured towboat unattended and (2) the failure of various responsible Federal, State, and local government agencies to Institute an effective program for assessing and managing risks to this bridge.

Four safety issues have been identified in this accident: adequacy of operator performance, timeliness of toxicological testing, vulnerability of the Claiborne Avenue bridge to vessel collision and subsequent collapse, and vulnerability of existing bridges nationwide to vessel collision and subsequent collapse.

The Safety Board made recommendations on these issues to the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:

to the Federal Highway Administration:

In cooperation with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, broaden the application of risk-assessment and management programs to existing highway bridges. Such programs should include, among other things, a formal assessment of the vulnerability of bridges to vessel collision and collapse. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-94-8)

to the U.S. Coast Guard:

Coordinate a cooperative effort with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, and bridge owners to review conditions and practices in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, identify hazards to the safe transit of vessels through the canal and lock system, and implement measures to reduce those hazards. (Class II, Priority Action) (M-94-10)

Provide guidelines to boarding officers investigating marine accidents about informing marine employers of their responsibility to conduct toxicological testing as soon as practicable following the occurrence of a serious marine incident and about providing assistance when necessary (such as furnishing sample collection kits or making arrangements for laboratory tests). (Class II, Priority Action) (M-94-11)

to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard to review conditions and practices in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, identify hazards to the safe transit of vessels through the canal and lock system, and implement measures to reduce those hazards. (Class II, Priority Action) (M-94-12)

to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development:

Cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard to review conditions and practices in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, identify hazards to the safe transit of vessels through the canal and lock system. and implement measures to reduce those hazards. (Class II, Priority Action) (M-94-13)

to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials:

In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, broaden the application of risk-assessment and management programs to existing highway bridges. Such programs should include, among other things, a formal assessment of the vulnerability of bridges to vessel collision and collapse. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-94-9)

to the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans:

Cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard to review conditions and practices in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, identify hazards to the safe transit of vessels through the canal and lock system, and implement measures to reduce those hazards. (Class II, Priority Action) (M-94-14)