Cars and trucks are driving over the Savanna-Sabula Bridge once again after a runaway barge ran into it.
It all started Sunday morning around 10:45 a.m., when witnesses say a boat towing six barges on the Mississippi River struck an island about a mile upstream from the bridge. The boat was trying to navigate a sharp turn in the river.
The collision knocked a tree onto the barges, breaking them apart from their tow boat and sending them down the river. To make matters worse, three workers were aboard one of the runaway barges.
Once it made it downstream to the bridge, one of the barges without workers on it struck the bridge, while the others floated past it.
First responders arrived to shut down the bridge and rescue the workers, all unharmed, from the barge. According to a news release from the Savanna Fire Department, a separate tug boat from Sabula was eventually able to gain control of the runaway barges before they could continue downstream and cause any further damage.
Workers with the Illinois Department of Transportation arrived to survey the damage to the bridge, and determined it was still structurally sound after it was hit by the barge. They reopened the bridge to traffic around 2 p.m.
“What a way to start your Sunday morning,” said Chris Lain, the mayor of Savanna, in response to the incident. “You’ve got (one barge) headed towards the bridge, and then you’ve got people on a portion that you have to get to as well. Our first responders did an amazing job.”
Lain says that while the bridge is safe to drive on, the damage done to it will likely need to be addressed in the future.
“I know it’s more than a scratch,” Lain said. “I’m sure they’re going to have to do some repairs to it.”
People living in Savanna and Sabula are among many who are grateful the event didn’t turn out any worse. They include Phil Nylin, who photographed the incident from the shores of Sabula as it happened.
“I was hoping the bridge wasn’t damaged too bad, because we had just got the new bridge,” Nylin said. “That was my biggest fear: Was it hit hard?”
The fact that the Savanna-Sabula Bridge is the only way vehicles can get across the river for miles in both directions adds to the gratitude some people feel.
“Instead of a five-minute drive across the bridge, now you’re headed all the way through to Clinton and then all the way back around, and it’s now an hour,” Lain said, describing what it’s like when the bridge has been closed down in the past.