Top of towboat sheared off in Illinois River bridge strike

(PEORIA, Ill.) — A towboat struck an Illinois River railroad bridge Monday night, shearing off the top of the vessel’s pilothouse, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

The vertical-lift bridge — locally known as the PPU Bridge, connecting rail freight service between Peoria and East Peoria — is routinely raised and lowered for passing towboats and other watercraft. The towboat had two barges in tow when the incident occurred at about 8:20 p.m.

Upon impact, the towboat’s pilot was hit with debris but escaped serious injury, said Lt. Daniel Wilkinson of the U.S. Coast Guard detachment in East Peoria.

“He was very lucky,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson declined to specify the names of the pilot or the towboat company. “We’re in the preliminary stages of the investigation,” he said. “We don’t even know the cause yet.”

Wilkinson said that as a matter of course, a vessel approaching the vertical-lift bridge radios the bridge tender. The bridge is lifted and lowered depending on multiple factors, including river traffic, railway traffic and water level.

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By Professional Mariner Staff