Barge hits railroad bridge in Jackson County

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The Coast Guard is investigating after a barge ran into the railroad bridge in Sabula, Iowa, Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the Sabula Fire Department received a call that a barge had struck the bridge and a man was in the water. Fire crews dispatched a rescue boat and ambulance, but upon arrival, they learned that the man was safe and no one had fallen into the Mississippi River.

"When they bring the barges through the bridge, they always have a guy on the front of the barge directing. Apparently he had run towards the back of the barge, so he never went in the water," said Fire Chief Dan Miller.

Witnesses said the barge, though, became partially stuck underneath the bridge after hitting its 'cribbing' or protection pier.

"There was a barge stuck up underneath the bridge. We don't see that happen here very much. It was quite spectacular... a tremendous amount of weight," said Sabula resident Tom Holman.

Miller estimated that the barge was stuck for around 30 to 45 minutes before a tug boat pulled it out. Tuesday evening, the barge rested about a mile upriver from the bridge, waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive and investigate.

Miller said it's not unusual for barges to hit the bridge, but they almost always strike the opposite, downriver side.

"The hit the bridge all the time, the cribbing... but never that one. I've lived here 67 years, and I've never seen it like that," said Miller.

Railroad crews also closed the tracks that run over the bridge to trains Tuesday afternoon. They plan to reopen the railroad once the bridge is deemed safe.

There was no word yet Tuesday on what caused the crash or on the extent of the barge's damage.