Multiple Bridges Across Ohio River Closed As 26 Barges Break Free

On Friday, 26 barges mysteriously broke free from a vessel and were seen floating uncontrollably down the Ohio River, causing significant damage to neighboring docks and sparking concerns that damage could be done to bridges on the river.

Authorities are still unsure as to how the barges were released as of Saturday, and an investigation into the incident is ongoing. Numerous bridges were closed in response to the incident out of fear that a barge collision with a bridge could cause it to collapse.

According to Pittsburgh officials, 23 of the barges were carrying nonhazardous dry cargo such as coal, while the other three were empty.

The City of Pittsburgh issued a press release after the incident explaining that 11 of the barges had been located close to a riverbank near Brunot Island and were being held by a tugboat, while nine barges had been stopped at Emsworth Dam.

Six of the barges were able to make it past the dam, five of which have since been located while the last remaining barge is believed to have sunk.

The barges reportedly caused significant damage to several docks along the river.
Several videos have been shared on social media of these barges colliding with bridges and dams in the Pittsburgh metro area.

One of the bridges that was shut down was located in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, with police closing the McKees Rocks Bridge briefly on Saturday before lifting the restrictions and allowing vehicles back on the bridge.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Pittsburgh City Paper managing editor Ryan Deto shared footage of several of the barges being stopped by the Coast Guard near Pittsburgh’s Brunot Island Bridge.

“About a dozen barges marooned in Pittsburgh’s North Side just under the Brunot Island Bridge. Appear to be filled with coal,” he wrote, explaining that the barges were being “kept in place by the coast guard.”

The barges are all owned and operated by Campbell Transportation Company, which has since issued a statement to a local news station taking responsibility for the incident.

“Campbell Transportation Company, Inc. is actively responding to a recent development involving a multi-barge breakaway in Pittsburgh. Our immediate priority is ensuring public safety and minimizing any potential environmental impact,” the statement read. “The incident occurred under high water conditions on the rivers resulting in strong currents due to flooding in the area.”

The company also confirmed that as of Saturday evening, only one of the barges remains unaccounted for — though officials believe that the vessel had sank.