Harbour Bridge suffered worst damage ever; man suffers broken leg after jumping to safety

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Multiple teams are working 24 hours to fix the Demerara Harbour Bridge after a fuel tanker collided with it early on Saturday, severely damaging the structure and grinding traffic to a complete halt.

Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill during a press briefing on Saturday afternoon said they are optimistic that the repairs can wrap up by Monday night. With the closure of the bridge, thousands are being affected.

“We are doing everything humanly possible. We are spearing no resources and we are taking no short cuts.

“We are working very hard to see if we can get this done by Monday night but this is being optimistic and we don’t want to deceive the people of Guyana,” Edghill said.

Damage to the alignment of the bridge (Photo: News Room/October 8, 2022)

A Board of Inquiry was also set up to investigate the incident and comprises of Captain Joseph Lewis – a Marine Officer and Surveyor of Ships; Thandi McAllister – Director of Legal Affairs at the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD); Yolanda Hughes – Board Member and a Staff of Transport and Harbours Department; Inspector Ross of the Marine Division of the Guyana Police Force; Lt. Col. David Shamsudeen – Coast Guard; Patrick Thompson – Chief Transport & Planning Officer and Dimitri Ali, Board Member of the Guyana National Shipping Corporation.

They will begin their probe on Sunday and the vessel will not be able to leave port Georgetown until the matter is resolved.

Edghill related that legal steps will also be taken in the matter.

What really happened?

Minister Edghill revealed that the incident occurred just about 02:00hrs. The vessel – MV Tradewind Passion – was laden with fuel for Guyoil and had a Panamanian flag. It was the fifth and final vessel scheduled to transit the Harbour Bridge.

The pilot, a Guyanese national, has been working for decades to transport vessels through the Demerara River and according to MARAD’s Director General, Stephen Thomas, his license has since been suspended and it is likely to be permanently suspended.

Ongoing repair works to the Demerara Harbour Bridge (Photo: News Room/October 8, 2022)

Based on preliminary investigations, GPS tracking found that the vessel did not follow the designated route through the river.

Andy Duke, the Ship Supervisor for the Harbour Bridge suffered a fractured leg following the collision. Duke reportedly warned the pilot moments before the collision.

“He was on the radio indicating to this vessel: ‘you are not coming in keeping with standards, move, turn around, drop the anchor,’ ” Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar told the news conference.

While Duke did everything to avoid the collision at the very last moment, he had no choice but to jump from his tower to get to safety.

He is currently hospitalised while the pilot tested negative for alcohol and drugs in his system.

Additionally, other staff members who were conducting maintenance works on the bridge at the time of the collision remain traumatised.

“We saw it coming towards us, this is the first time I experience this and it was very traumatic, until now I can’t close my eyes to get some rest,” Ahmad Khan, one of the mechanical engineers said.

The damage to the bridge is the worst the government has seen. Four spans – 8, 9, 10 and 11 – are broken.

Span 9 was shifted at about 45 degrees and everything under that structure is broken.

“Since we know this bridge, we never saw that kind of damage,” Minister Indar said.

Interventions and measures

The government is working with the private sector to respond to the situation to ensure the country is secure, people are able to move, goods and services can be provided.

Apart from the 24 hour service being provided by speedboats between Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop, passenger vessels will also be implemented to ply the following routes: MARAD boathouse in Georgetown to Vreed-en-Hoop; the Harbour Bridge to La Grange while a crossing from Wales to Diamond is also being considered.

Ongoing repair works to the Demerara Harbour Bridge (Photo: News Room/October 8, 2022)

“The government wants to ensure that all of our people who have to travel across the demerara river in the midst of this national situation do so securely, safely and without exploitation,” Minister Edghill further noted.

MARAD will be monitoring the routes and only licensed boats with efficient safety measures will be allowed to operate. The fee of $100 remains the same.

The government is also examining the possibility of using barges to transport trucks with supplies across the river.

Persons who are stranded on the eastern side can leave their vehicles at the National Stadium, Providence and Minister Edghill assured that police ranks will be on the ground to provide security.

1 Comment
  1. Patricia Pierre says

    How unfortunate. Why is this happening so often? Is it that the Captains of those vessels. are not careful enough? I think that the Government of Guyana should have stricter measures in place. This would be a deterant to those careless Captains.

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