Harrison County

Barge hits Popps Ferry Bridge (Updated 9:20 a.m.)

Police confirm a barge has struck the Popp's Ferry Bridge this morning, causing a section south of the draw to collapse.

The bridge was hit by a tug boat pushing eight barges. One barge is still in the water.

Rescue boats were positioned under the fallen Popp's Ferry Bridge to help a bridge tender reach safety from a section that collapsed after a barge struck the bridge around 7:30 a.m.

Assistant Police Chief Rodney McGilvary said the operator of the tug boat that struck the bridge is on his vessel awaiting rescue and two other boats in the area appear to be taking on water.

The bridge tender, identified by Mayor A.J. Holloway as Margie Johnson, works out of a small office on the bridge. The 21-year city employee was trapped but was able to use a cat walk designed for an emergency escape to reach the waiting hands of rescue personnel , McGilvary said. Firefighters used two ladders to help her leave the bridge.

No one was injured but traffic is being diverted on both sides of the bridge.

"We lost a whole section of the bridge on the south side of the draw," said Police Traffic Officer Darrell Montiforte.

Authorities said the bridge-tender was "a little shook up," but she's OK. City officials have called for engineers to review the damages.

The Department of Marine Resources and the Harrison County Sheriff's Office sent personnel to the scene as soon authorities were notified of the collapse, police said. The Coast Guard has been called in as well.

Police said they also notified area schools that buses would be arriving late.

Authorities said it's too early to tell how long it will take to repair the bridge. The bridge collapsed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leaving motorists to use alternative routes until repairs were made.

Biloxi officials said the city is putting up signs on Interstate 10 at I-110 and Cowan-Lorraine Road to advise of the bridge accident and alternate routes. Signs also are being put up on U.S. 90.

"I think this is a clear statement for a new bridge," said Holloway.

A Coast Guard helicopter is flying over a collapsed section of the Popp's Ferry Bridge in pending rescue efforts to get a tug boat operator to safety. Authorities say the drawbridge was in the upright position when it was struck by one of several barges connected together. "It was going west, inbound when it took out a span," said Lt. David Dollar of the Department of Marine Resources.

The Sun Herald has a crew on the scene and updates this story as details develop.