First Alert Weather Alert: Flood Warning expires at 8:00 PM on 4/28, issued at 10:03 AM Bryceville, FL | Callahan, FL | Fernandina Beach, FL | Glen Saint Mary, FL

Boat slams Bridge of Lions in rough waters

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Updated: 11/13/2013 6:31 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Bridge of Lions, in St. Augustine, is operational after suffering minor damage when high winds forced a sailboat to go crashing into it.

"It pushed the boat beneath the bridge, and it got pinned," said witness Richey VanKirk.

VanKirk worried about trouble on the water this morning. The strong current and wind bursts caused big problems for several boats anchored by the Bridge of Lions.

"This is probably my third time I've actually witnessed a sailboat connect with the Bridge of Lions," VanKirk said.

The harbormaster said, in all, three boats got loose from the grips of their anchors -- including a houseboat.

"All three of these boats are typically left unattended by their owners, and those are the consequences that we have," said harbormaster Sam Adukiewicz.

A few years ago, the city built what's called a mooring field to cut down on accidents like these. It allows boat owners to clip their anchor to a mooring attached to the river floor. The issue has been controversial. Many captains refuse to pay the fee to use the mooring field.

Now, minor repairs are needed to a main thoroughfare. Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline said the city needs to find a way to stop these accidents from being allowed to happen.

"The sailboat is partially submerged and stabilized, and once the weather calms down, we'll take care of it," Adukiewicz said.

Action News spoke with the man who owns the houseboat that was dragged. He said the roof of his pilot house was ripped off when it went under the bridge. He lost a solar panel and a window and will need quite a few repairs. He wasn't living on it at the time.

Action News has learned there was a diesel spill from the sailboat. According to the Coast Guard, the Fire Department put a boom around the boat to contain the fuel.

SeaTow will remove the vessel Thursday.

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