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Barge damages I-90 bridge railing - Driver injured by debris, but no structural damage

By Ruth Longoria

A crane from a commercial barge slammed into the East Channel Bridge Thursday afternoon, injuring a man when debris from the bridge flew into westbound Interstate 90 traffic and struck his van.

The man was transported to an area hospital, but there was no information available as to his condition. The incident occurred at about 1:45 p.m.

The tugboat was traveling south under the bridge with a crane in an upright position when the crane struck the bridge midspan, said Mercer Island Police Sergeant Marc A. Marcroft, who arrived on scene shortly after the incident.

The East Channel Bridge has a clearance of 70 feet, according to the state Department of Transportation.

A large chunk of the bridge's safety railing fell onto the deck of the boat below, but neither of the two occupants were injured.

After the crash, the barge continued toward Barbee Mill in Renton. The barge is a commercial motorized vehicle owned by Northern Marine Salvage of Seattle.

The driver of the barge told Mercer Island Marine Patrol officers, who met up with the barge near the mill, that he had attempted to call police about the crash before continuing on to Renton. The barge operator allegedly tried to throw the vehicle into reverse when he saw that the extended crane was going to hit the bridge, but wasn't able to do so fast enough, Marcroft said.

The state Department of Transportation inspected the bridge, and closed down one westbound lane of the roadway during a cleanup of the debris. There was no structural damage to the bridge, DOT told Mercer Island police. The incident is being investigated by Mercer Island Marine Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard, which shares jurisdiction because the boat was a commercial vehicle.

Dave Rehm, 46, of Seattle, was parked under the bridge eating his lunch, in the boat launch area, when he witnessed the collision between barge and bridge.

``It looked like the boom just about toppled over onto the wheelhouse, and then this big piece of railing fell down,'' Rehm said. ``It was kind of exciting.''

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