Riverboat hit by barges

Riverboat / Barge Accident
St. Louis 4 April 1998

Below are two CNN stories covering the accident.

Barge accident sends riverboat casino adrift

April 5, 1998
Web posted at: 4:33 a.m. EDT
ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Three barges struck a riverboat casino with about 2,500 people aboard Saturday night, setting it adrift.

The barges broke loose from a towboat that struck a bridge upstream on the Mississippi River and hit the casino at about 8 p.m.

The Admiral riverboat, which houses the President casino, floated downstream for about 500 feet before the towboat caught up with it and held it in place against the river bank. Normally, the boat is permanently moored just north of St. Louis' Gateway Arch.

The towboat caught up with the casino, which does not have a motor, when it was about a half mile from another bridge, Deputy Fire Chief George Horne said.

Other towboats were able to secure four barges that broke loose and the eight barges that the towboat had to release to assist the casino. One of the barges sank.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, St. Louis police spokeswoman Adella Jones said. Five or six people requested medical treatment for chest pains.

The impact knocked the boat off its moorings, and made it impossible for the boat's passengers to debark on the ramps, Jones said. Instead, the Becky Thatcher excursion boat was pressed into service to remove passengers. There were no immediate estimates of damages.

We were freaking out'

"I was playing the machines, and the next thing I knew, there was a big boom, like a big jerk," said Paul Hudson, who was on the casino. "Everyone got scared. The first time it hit, I got so scared and I fell on the floor.

"We're just glad to be off. When it hit, we thought it was going (down)."

People on the casino were transferred 200 at a time to two excursion boats to be taken to shore. The last of the passengers were to be taken to shore at about 10:30 p.m. -- about two and a half hours after the crash.

"We were freaking out, looking for anything that would float in the water in case we had to jump off," said Terry Oehler of Des Moines, Iowa. "I thought the chandelier would fall down on us. It doesn't look bad from the shore, but when we were on the boat, we were scared."

Coast Guard Cmdr. John Holmes said the towboat that crashed is owned by American Boat Co. of Cahokia, Illinois, He didn't know who was operating the towboat or whether a strike by towboat operators had any effect.

Pilots Agree, a group representing about a third of the nation's 3,000 riverboat pilots and captains, voted to strike on Saturday after 98 companies spurned an invitation to negotiate pay and working conditions.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

31 riverboat passengers injured in barge accident

April 5, 1998
Web posted at: 1:39 p.m. EDT
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- About 31 people were injured, one critically, when three runaway barges rammed into a floating casino on the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard said Sunday.

The incident occurred when a towboat tugging 14 barges crashed into a bridge near the St. Louis Arch, breaking its barge string loose.

That set off a chain reaction: Three of the renegade barges ran into "The President on the Admiral," a docked riverboat casino, setting it adrift, officials said.

The riverboat, which doesn't have a motor, floated downstream for about 500 feet before the towboat caught up with it and pinned it against the river bank. However the casino had swung 180 degrees so that its entrances were facing the river instead of the shore. Passengers were finally evacuated on excursion boats.

Of the 31 persons injured, 16 were transported to area hospitals, two complaining of chest pains. One patient's condition remains critical.

Officials said 13 of the barges were secured; one sank.

"The President on the Admiral," built as an entertainment vessel, has been moored along the St. Louis riverfront for decades. It was closed during the 1980s but reopened as a gambling vessel in early 1990s.

Return to Recreational Boat Building Industry Home Page