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NH-Maine Bridge Closed To Traffic For 2-4 Weeks From Oil Tanker Crash

By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV New Hampshire Bureau Chief
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PORTSMOUTH, NH (CBS) – The New Hampshire Department of Transportation determined Tuesday that four trusses are bent on the Sarah Long Bridge, and there are concrete issues in the sidewalk over the river, but engineers are still inspecting to see if there is any more damage following Monday’s accident that sent an oil tanker slamming into the bridge.

The bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, but remains open for marine traffic.

DOT Commissioner Chris Clement says the cost of repair will be “more than hundreds of thousands of dollars”, and the ship’s owner will have to foot the bill.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating what went wrong and whether the crew of the MV Harbour Feature made a mistake or if there was a mechanical malfunction.

“Still looking into that,” said Lt. Nick Barrow with the Coast Guard.

The ship had come in from Georgia and its next stop is set to be the United Kingdom. It stopped in Portsmouth to refuel and pick up cargo which is yellow grease and tallow oil. There is no evidence of any spill.

Time lapse video shows the boat docking shortly after noon Monday, but soon can be seen drifting into the Piscataqua River and then slamming sideways into the bridge.

There is damage to the ship including several dents and punctures, and divers are checking the boat below the surface of the water as well.

The crew of 20 is from the Ukraine and Latvia, and the ship is registered in Portugal. The ship cannot leave port until it can sail safely.

DOT officials say the bridge will be closed for up to two months, and with the Memorial Bridge already closed, there is just one bridge connecting Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine.

Lisa Corcoran, manager of Jackson’s Hardware on the Kittery side, says business is hurting.

“It’s a little devastating,” said Corcoran, referencing an empty store. “We’re basically on a dead end road now so we’ve got no drive-by traffic.”

And at Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth, owner Penelope Brewster said there is concern about customer traffic and for employees getting to work: “mostly because most of us live on the other side of the bridge,” said Brewster, “and a lot of our customers are from Maine.”

The bridge is still scheduled to be torn down and replaced in 2014. But the current repairs need to be made now, according to Commissioner Clement, because of the traffic issues.

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