Arkansas Boat Captain Offers Insight Into Barge Accident

Arkansas Boat Captain Offers Insight Into Barge Accident

An Arkansas boat captain with more 30 years of experience navigating the Arkansas river says he's not surprised to hear another barge hit the I-30 bridge protector.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- The water of the Arkansas river runs calm Friday, but Thursday it was a much different scene when a barge struck the protective cells, or barge bumpers, located in front of the bridge's beams.

Excessive Director of the Arkansas waterway commission, Gene Higginbotham, said even though this is the second time in two months an accident like this happened he doesn't see it as a trend.

"It's a rare occurrence and a coincidence it happened so soon," said Higginbotham.

Richard Vardaman shows us he's a licensed boat captain and said up until his recent battle with colon cancer, he navigated the river's waters and he wasn't surprised to hear about another accident at the I-30 river bridge.

"You get to a point of no return," said Vardaman. "You've got to make it or crash one of the two."

He was even asked many times to steer the boat through the bridge by less confident captains.

Vardaman said what makes it so difficult is the bridge's pillars are closer together than any of the other bridges.

There is 174.5 feet on each side of the center of the channel.

The Arkansas Waterway Commission is well aware and said they've gone as far as brainstorming with the Arkansas Highway Department to do something about it.

"We've discussed it," said Higginbotham.

"Take that bridge out. That's the only thing that's going to cure it," said Vardaman.
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