Unmanned barge hits Sewickley Bridge, prompts hours-long closure

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Sewickley Bridge was closed because of an unmanned barge on Saturday.

In a post on Facebook, the Moon Township Police Department announced the closure of the bridge at around 2 p.m. It was closed for at least 3 hours.

An officer at the department told Channel 11 News this incident is separate from the 26 barges that broke free on the Ohio River late Friday night.

>>> 26 barges break loose on Ohio River, cause damage to a marina

While at the scene, Channel 11 saw crews in a bucket truck working on the bridge while it was closed.

“We was getting ready to go someplace and we couldn’t go across the Sewickley Bridge,” said Helene Zacharis of Sewickley.

PennDOT confirmed the massive barge hit one of the bridge’s pillars Saturday afternoon.

The rare sight brought many curious onlookers to the Sewickley Bridge hoping to catch a glimpse of it floating down the Ohio River.

“I was kind of curious about what happened and what they’re doing about it,” said Kirby Walker of Sewickley.

The boat was already gone by the time some onlookers got there. It was taken away by a tugboat.

“My hotel is right here, and I was curious about it. Where are those barges are?” said Shalini Tripathi, the GM of the nearby Fairfield Inn by Marriott.

Shonte Mulbah of Sewickley came down to check out the high water from the flooding.

“My kids wanted to come and see the water,” Mulbah said. “They’ve been wanting to see it for the last couple days. Then when we heard about the barge, we said we might as well walk down and see if we can see anything.”

Bill Thorne of Sewickley was sitting in traffic about to cross the bridge when he realized what was going on.

“As soon as we got past the bridge, well, underneath the bridge, and about there, you could see the barge sitting against the support,” Thorne said. “They were parked along the road on 65 out of their cars taking pictures.”

PennDOT bridge crews inspected the bridge from a bucket truck and determined it could reopen.

Another barge was found floating upstream. The Army Corps of Engineers said it was one of several unmanned vessels that came to a stop against the railroad bridge by the Emsworth dam. Those barges were among 26 that broke loose overnight because of the raging flood waters.

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