NTSB Releases Report On Cumberland Allision

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report on an incident in March 2017 in which a three-barge tow pushed by the mv. Steve Plummer allided with CSX Railroad Bridge at Mile 190.4 of the Cumberland River. While the incident resulted in no injuries or pollution, it destroyed a guard pier and caused damage to two barges. The Steve Plummer itself and a third barge were undamaged.

The guard pier, which is separate from the bridge and not part of its support, cost $1,715,112 to replace. Damage to barge HMT316 amounted to $38,102, and damage to H4128B cost $33,253 to repair.

Water levels were high but within normal ranges for the time of year. On the day of the incident, the current was 3 mph. and the tow was moving ahead at 3.5 mph through the water.

The NTSB concluded that the incident’s probable cause was the pilot’s decision to move three barges through the bridge during high water with swift currents, “which overwhelmed his ability to maneuver the tow through the bridge.”

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The policy of Pine Bluff Materials, the boat’s operator, was to let pilots determine tow sizes up to three barges depending on conditions, but after this incident the company changed its policy to allow no more than two barges at a time through the CSX Bridge.

The NTSB report said that there have been 12 allisions associated with this bridge between 2008 and 2017.

The twin-screw, 700 hp. Steve Plummer was built in 1966 by Barbour Metal Boat Works, St. Louis. Originally named the Phillips II, it was previously owned by Ohio Power Company and Indiana Michigan Power Company, which later became part of AEP River Operations. It was sold in 2013 to Hunter Sand & Gravel and renamed the Bobby Johnson. It was bought by Pine Bluff Materials LLC in 2016.