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City believes towing company to blame for Mathews Bridge damage

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Updated: 10/01/2013 12:13 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- City officials are calling it a miracle that the Mathews Bridge didn't come crashing down into the St. Johns River when a ship ran into it.
The impact was so significant the ship's ramp appears to be in better shape than the bridge it slammed into. Still, both need major repairs.

"There's large damage on the loading arm or the ramp of the Military Sea Lift Command ship," said Coast Guard Capt. Tom Allan.

The U.S. Naval ship was being pulled during high tide by four tug boats owned by Moran Towing Services, heading south from Blount Island to the North Florida Shipyard.

The Coast Guard still has questions. Allan wondered "why the vessel went under there without checking the air draft to see how it would fit under."

Mayor Alvin Brown and council members Johnny Gaffney and Jim Love had some questions of their own, and set sail shortly after the crash to get some answers.

In a statement, Dr. Gaffney said, "We have been officially told that it appears the towing company is responsible because when they're towing ships, they usually have sailors on it. They would have lowered the arms. This time there were no personnel."

Now a thorough investigation is underway to determine who is at fault. The Coast Guard is conducting drug and alcohol tests for all crew members aboard the tug boats or ship, followed by in-depth interviews to determine if there was any negligence.
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