River barges break loose in Pittsburgh, causing damage, closing bridges before some go over dam

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A large group of river barges broke loose and floated down the Ohio River in Pittsburgh late Friday, damaging a marina and causing bridge closures before the boats were pinned to the riverbank or went over a dam downstream, officials said.

Pittsburgh police, fire and emergency medical services responded around 11:25 p.m. to reports of the barges “floating uncontrolled” down the river, Pittsburgh Public Safety said in a statement.

There were no reports of any injuries after the 26 barges broke free, including 23 loaded with dried cargo including coal. There were no hazardous materials on board the vessels, the city said.

Peggy’s Harbor, a marina on the river, sustained extensive damage.

The city said 11 barges were held against the riverbank and secured by a tugboat near Brunot Island, while 14 continued further down the river and six went over the Emsworth Dam.

The West End Bridge was closed in both directions and rail traffic was closed on the Brunot Island bridge, which the city said were both temporary measures.

The McKees Rocks Bridge was closed “in an abundance of caution,” the McKees Rocks Police Department said in a social media post.

The barges were owned or operated by Campbell Transportation Company, the city’s statement said.

The Coast Guard, Pennsylvania State Police and other agencies were alerted.