Ten minutes to bridge collision
- supervisor recounts
May 29, 2002
Articles on bridges
On Saturday night, traffic across the Demerara Harbour Bridge was flowing smoothly, the lights on the bridge were all in place and supervisors and attendants were in their respective positions.
It was approximately 8:50, a few hours before the symbolic flag raising ceremony for the celebration of Guyana's 36th Independence Anniversary would have culminated. The immediate environs of Harbour bridge were all quiet and there was no hint of worry.
It was then the bizarre happened. Troy Halley a supervisor attached to the bridge recalled that around 8:50 a radio call came through to the office.
"Our tug broke loose and it is heading towards you." What happened with it was Halley's inquiry, "We don't know but it is coming towards you. It was anchored right here at the wharf but suddenly the ropes loose and it is coming towards the bridge."
Halley told Stabroek News yesterday that quick messages were relayed to the officers stationed at both sides of the bridge with strict instructions to close it to vehicular traffic. "While they did that we on the bridge alerted pedestrians about the situation and they were quickly escorted off the bridge.
Halley said all during this time the UNAMCO tug, Sriganga 1 carrying the barge which was fully loaded with lumber kept coming towards the bridge and with a strong tide the tug was unable to steer it the barge away from the bridge and even control the rate at which it was travelling.
By now the bridge was closed at both ends, pedestrians who had been on the bridge for a casual walk and some journeying to their destinations had already left. Workers on the bridge spoke for one last time with the captain of the tug, but it was almost nearing its point of collision with the bridge.
Halley recounted that he along with others on bridge got closer to the scene and as their eyes met the speeding tug they then realised that there was nothing more to be done. He said that if he had been on the tug he would have prayed but couldn't say what the men on the vessel did at the time. The lights on the bridge were bright and as the tug got closer Halley and his fellow workers watched a little distance from the section where it was heading.
He said it was about 9 pm when the out-of-control tug crashed into the bridge dislocating the retractor span - the moveable section of the bridge which allows the passage of ocean going vessels. "The impact of the crash resounded", Halley said, "and we on the bridge felt the force of it." He told Stabroek News that it was sad observing the scene and what compounded it more was the fact that they couldn't do anything to avert the crash. According to him all of the electrical lights on that part of the bridge went out and darkness enveloped the area.
Halley said that when the tug and the dislocated span were brought to a screeching halt the former project manager of the bridge was alerted and so were the authorities at the Transport and Harbours Department, board members, the Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier and radio and television stations. Halley said that looking at the crash from the vantage point he was at he wasn't fearful but knew extensive damage to the bridge would be done.
Stabroek News visited the Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) Wharf at Providence, East Bank Demerara where the tug and barge were said to be moored but officials at the wharf said that the tug was anchored between Toolsie Persaud's and GUYOIL's nearby wharf.
One of the officials pointed to the cluster of piles where the tug was moored and said that if the tug and barge were to be anchored at Toolsie Persaud's wharf they would have had to be informed 24 hours before and a rental would have had to be paid.
This newspaper observed that some of the piles were in a state of disrepair.
Yesterday, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Transport and Hydraulics, Ajay Baksh told this newspaper that the four crew members on the UNAMCO tug, including the captain were detained and after investigations they were released.
Traffic over the bridge was disrupted for several days. Light traffic resumed on Monday. The bridge is not opening as yet for vessels to pass.