Dispatches VIDEO: High water, low bridge
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VIDEO: High water, low bridge

A cargo ship carrying rocket components for NASA nearly sent a Tennessee River bridge into orbit last Thursday.

The 312-foot Delta Mariner was too tall to fit under the Eggner Ferry Bridge, taking out a 300-foot section and carrying the twisted metal and asphalt on its bow. No one on the bridge or the ship was injured, according to the Cadiz (Ky.) Record newspaper.

Coast Guard officials declined to cite a cause, but an investigation is ongoing. In reports, the Kentucky State Police say high water levels might have contributed to the crash. The waterway is still closed to recreational traffic.

Click play for a news report and to see the ship carrying the 80-year-old span.

Robert Parker, who was driving on the bridge, told USA Today that he had to act quickly when he saw there was a section missing ahead of him.

"All of a sudden I see the road's gone and I hit the brakes," Parker said. "It got close."

The 8,400-ton Delta Mariner hauls rocket parts for NASA, according to United Launch Alliance, which builds the parts in Alabama. Foss Maritime Co., of Seattle, owns the ship, and it submitted a salvage plan to the Coast Guard on Wednesday, according to Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based KFVS-TV, whose coverage area includes western Kentucky.

Foss plans to bring in an Echoscope, which will create a three-dimensional image of the ship's hull, debris field and bottom contour of the waterway using sonar, according to KFVS, a CBS affiliate. The information will allow the salvage and operations team to complete a detailed salvage plan.

After the plan is approved, Foss will start to remove the portion of the bridge that is resting on the Delta Mariner. The ship will then be moved to a different site for repair.

The cargo wasn’t damaged in the collision, United Launch Alliance said. The bridge opened in 1932 and was reportedly in the process of being replaced.


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