Barge Crashes New Orleans Mayor’s Inauguration Party

Photo shows damage to Mardi Gras World after barge allision. (Photo by Frank McCormack)

The good times were rolling May 7 in New Orleans with the inauguration of the city’s new mayor, Latoya Cantrell—the first woman elected mayor in the city’s 300-year history. But the bon temps crashed to a halt that night when a barge allided with Mardi Gras World, a sprawling wharf-turned-artisan-warehouse on the Mississippi River where Kern Studios builds and stores Carnival floats.

Just a short time before Cantrell was to take a bow at her inauguration ball that night at Mardi Gras World, the mayor received a stern reminder that the city remains, as it has been throughout its history, rooted in the maritime industry.

At about 6:45 p.m., a barge, part of a tow pushed by Marquette Transportation’s mv. Steve Richoux, crashed the inauguration ball before it even got started. The Steve Richoux, according to reports, was moving upriver past Mardi Gras World, located on the east bank of the river just above the Crescent City Connection bridge, when it lost steerage and veered toward the wharf. The barge struck several pilings supporting a small section of Mardi Gras World, causing part of the building to subsequently sag into the Mississippi River.

The New Orleans Fire Department, the Port of New Orleans Harbor Police and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the incident.

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There were no injuries associated with the incident, and vessel traffic on the river continued unabated. Local media, though, captured glitter and styrofoam float components floating in the river in the vicinity of the allision. Traffic for the inauguration ball was impacted, but the celebration itself went on as planned.

“Inauguration Ball is still on!” Cantrell said via Twitter. “A barge hit ‘near’ Mardi Gras World. Authorities have inspected and given green light. Parking will be impacted so expect delays. Thankfully there was no loss of life!”

By the middle of the week, the floatbuilding activity in the affected area had been moved to another part of Mardi Gras World, but public tours were still suspended. A representative of Kern Studios said, while the floor was sagging where the impact occurred, there was no water intrusion into the building.

The mv. Steve Richoux is an 1,800 hp., 85-foot by 30-foot towboat built in 1975. The vessel is part of Marquette’s Gulf-Inland Fleet.

The Mardi Gras World allision was the second incident involving a towboat to occur in the New Orleans area May 7.

The other happened downriver at the Port of New Orleans’ Poland Avenue Wharf around 12:30 p.m. At that time, the mv. Uncle Robert, part of Pierre Part, La.-based Alexis Marine’s fleet, experienced an engine room fire. According to local media reports, the mv. Uncle Robert struck another vessel as it attempted to dock at the Poland Avenue Wharf. The New Orleans Fire Department and the Port of New Orleans fireboat Roy S. Kelley attacked the fire, with personnel bringing the fire under control by about 2:30 p.m., according to the New Orleans Advocate.