Mississippi River at Vicksburg closed after bridge hit, barges break free

The Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg after barges hit a railroad bridge there Sunday and about 30 barges broke free from the towboat "Captain Buck Lay."

Nine towboats -- six bound upriver and three heading downriver -- with a total of 134 barges were waiting to get through Sunday evening, Petty Officer Ryan Tippets said.

Every barge was accounted for, but the river remained closed with no word on when it might reopen. Tippets says three barges carried grain and the rest held coal.

"I haven't heard any word on how much of that has gotten into the water. I'm not sure which ones sank," he said.

One barge sank in the traffic channel, Tippets said. He did not know whether it must be removed before the channel can reopen, or when salvage was expected to begin.

He said two others were partly submerged and pushed against the bank, a third was pushed up on a river dike and the rest had been collected.

The Captain Buck Lay is owned by Memco Barge Line Inc., Tippets said.

American Electric Power bought Memco in 2001 from Progress Energy's Electric Fuels Corp. subsidiary, according to a statement on AEP's website.  A call to an online listing for Memco in Chesterfield, Mo., was answered by a recording for AEP River Operation. A dispatcher there referred an inquiry to AEP during business hours.