Towboat prevents drifting dock from causing damage

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A covered dock containing 16 boats broke free of its West Virginia mooring last week, drifting five miles down a rain-swollen Kanawha River and narrowly avoiding a collision with a bridge before a towboat nudged it to safety along the riverbank.

No major damage was visible to the dock or the boats, at least one of which was 37 feet, according to the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette.

The dock, owned by Lou Wendell Marine, had recently been moved from its previous location under the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge to a nearby site outside the span's demolition safety zone. Water levels on Thursday were high, but not exceedingly so, according to Lou Wendell.

"Miraculously, the currents allowed the dock to pass underneath the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge and the interstate highway bridge without apparently contacting the bridge piers," Amherst Madison vice president for safety and compliance Bill Barr told the newspaper.

The Amherst Madison towboat Shirley was working Thursday as a harbor boat at the John Amos power plant. Alerted that the runaway dock was approaching them, Shirley's crew, led by Capt. Jerrick Marker, headed upstream and encountered the dock a short distance downstream of the I-64 Bridge, according to Barr.

Amherst Madison personnel told Barr that the dock appeared to have been lined up to collide with a bridge pier, but the current swept it away in time to avoid impact.

The Shirley appeared on the scene a few minutes later, approached the dock and began nudging it toward the left descending bank of the Kanawha, a short distance upstream from the John Amos plant.

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