The owners of the Kaye E. Barker said "unexpected and strong currents" were to blame for the incident at downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin

A coal ship which encountered “unexpected and strong currents” destroyed a boat and hit a bridge at Green Bay, causing it to be put out of action for hours on Sunday afternoon (16 July).

The Kaye E. Barker was making its way along the Fox River when it hit the CityDeck, destroying a 16-foot boat before it smacked into the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge.

The bridge was subsequently stuck in the open position, with traffic having to be diverted to other parts of Green Bay.

There were no reports of any injuries.

Speaking to the Green Bay Press Gazette, eye witness Elizabeth Feldhausen said: “It was crazy. Everybody started running; this family ran out yelling, ‘That’s our boat!’ It literally was gone in 30 seconds.”

According to witnesses, people who were watching the boat coming in started “screaming and yelling” as soon as the boat started heading towards the dock.

Luckily, the Kaye E. Barker, which has a gross tonnage of 25,900, had already delivered its cargo of coal.

A bridge on the Fox River at Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge. Credit: Chris Rand/Wikimedia Commons

It was on its way to Michigan when the incident happened. The ship was docked at the Fox River Terminal while an investigation was launched by the US Coast Guard.

The Kaye E. Barker is owned by the InterLake Steamship Company.

The firm’s vice president, Tom Wynne told USA Today that the captain encountered “unexpected and strong currents” that “pushed him to port as he was backing toward the bridge”.

“My understanding is that he came up against the fendering, but not the bridge itself,” he added.

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Members of the US Coast Guard were on the scene almost immediately, along with firefighters from the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, which dealt with the oil and gas that leaked from the destroyed boat.

According to the InterLake Steamship Company website, the 767-foot Kaye E. Barker was built in 1952 and was originally called the Edward B. Green.

It has a 70-foot beam and a 36-foot hull depth.

The ship was renamed the Benson Ford in 1985 when it joined the Rouge Steel Company fleet.

It was bought by Interlake in 1989 and was renamed the Kaye E. Barker after the wife of the firm’s chairman of the board and president.