Sailboat mast causes power outage in Fort Lauderdale

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A sailboat under way on the New River hit power lines Monday afternoon, causing a widespread power outage throughout downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Though the outage was brief, the explosive crash caused two Broward County drawbridges to be locked down until early this morning and it affected hospital admissions and area traffic.

Passersby heard three loud explosions when a Stephens sailboat's 75-foot-tall mast ran into a power conductor, shutting down river traffic and causing three power lines to fall, officials with Florida Power & Light told the Sun-Sentinel.

About 13,000 power company customers experienced a power outage of about a minute because of the accident.

"They got high tide and miscalculated the height," said Eddie Freay, Broward operations leader for Florida Power & Light.

The sailboat, headed west on the New River, hit high-tension wires that cross the waterway immediately west of the Florida East Coast Railway drawbridge, west of Andrews Avenue, according to Andre Slintak of the county's Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division.

"I heard the explosion," said Natasha Gross, the wife of the boat's captain. "It was very frightening, very intense, and the boat rocked a lot because of the cables. It was a loud noise, kind of firework-like."

Gross, of Hollywood, said she was on board with her husband, her 2-year-old son and six others. Her husband was hospitalized with minor injuries as a precaution.

Two county drawbridges — Andrews Avenue and Southwest Seventh Avenue — were locked down, meaning boats could not pass, until early this morning.

The sailboat did not affect the bridges, but police wanted to keep boats away from where the sailboat became entangled in the wires.

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