Boat Accident on the Mateo Bridge

April 15, 2009 12:04:57 PM PDT
Two westbound lanes of the San Mateo Bridge were reopened just before 6:00 Wednesday morning after strong winds caused a fishing trawler to crash Tuesday afternoon. All lanes were shut down there for hours.

Caltrans officials say it may take longer to reopen the far right lane as they still need to remove the fishing vessel stuck against the bridge. They say moving the boat may not happen as quickly as originally thought.

The 75-foot fishing trawler and all onboard became victims of the high winds and choppy water late Tuesday afternoon. The boat called the "Dandy Bill" lost power near the San Mateo Bridge and eventually drifted into it.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent a cutter and another smaller boat to help, but even those crews had trouble reaching the stranded vessel through the rough waters.

Eventually the crew rescued two fishermen and their dog. A third fisherman was able to climb onto the bridge and was rescued there. A helicopter also flew in to hoist Coast Guard personnel who also got stuck on the waters.

Everyone that was stranded is now safe, but the boat may not be pulled out anytime soon.

"We haven't been able to find anybody yet that has a boat that can have the power to pull it, that can get into that shallow water? It's probably about six to eight feet. I don't know the exact depth but it's pretty shallow. We need a pretty decent-sized tug to get that out of there," said Petty Officer Kevin Neff.

Caltrans finished welding off the boat's mast early Wednesday so no more damage will be done to the bridge.

A Caltrans spokesperson says there has been some minimal structural damage due to wind continuing to smash the boat into the structure. It damaged the top and outside of the bridge rail, three light poles and three call boxes.

Pollution is another major concern. The fishing trawler is carrying up to 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and the Coast Guard and Caltrans are working to remove the boat so nothing will leak into the bay.

Windy conditions and shallow water continue to compound the dilemma and there is no word yet on when the trawler will be removed.


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