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Crews Report 5th Body in Texas Bridge Accident

September 18, 2001|From Associated Press

PORT ISABEL, Texas — Crews found a fifth body Monday while searching for bodies trapped in cars after plunging off a bridge that partially collapsed when it was hit by barges and a tugboat.

Trooper Adrian Rivera, a Department of Public Safety spokesman, said at least five people have been confirmed dead and three or four more are missing in the Laguna Madre waterway. The collision Saturday knocked out part of the Queen Isabella Causeway, the only bridge linking Port Isabel and South Padre Island.

Also Monday, Lt. Robert Wyman, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the agency would investigate, "due to the severity" of the accident.

Recovery efforts were suspended Sunday because a portion of the bridge was unstable, Rivera said. Divers on Monday examined the bridge to make sure it is stable enough for rescuers to search nearby, Wyman said.

The DPS said authorities have recovered four bodies and spotted a fifth in a car in the water. That body has not been recovered.

Thirteen people were rescued from the 50-foot-deep channel, part of the Intracoastal Waterway that connects the Texas Gulf coast with shipping on the Mississippi River.

Poor visibility and tidal currents that have moved the sunken vehicles are hampering recovery efforts.

Stephen Mosher, president of Brown Water Towing, the tug's owner, said navigation lights on the causeway were not working at the time of the crash. Mosher also said in a statement that the vessel veered off course after hitting an unmarked sandbar.

Wyman did not comment directly, but said the Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the channel Sunday and found it was the proper depth, 14 feet. The Coast Guard also found that all channel buoys and lights were working, he said.

Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that repairs may take four months.

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