Recovery plan developed to remove fallen crane from water at HRBT

No impact to timeline of HRBT Expansion Project, officials say
Posted at 11:30 AM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 15:28:27-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - A crane fell into the water at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Tuesday morning.

According to Steve Meyers with Hampton Roads Connector Partners, the contractor for the HRBT Expansion Project, the incident occurred around 7:30 a.m. As of 7 p.m., the crane is still in the water. This happened in Willoughby Bay near the eastbound lanes of I-64 on the Willoughby Bay Bridge.

A barge operator was moving the crane, and a mechanical issue happened that caused the crane to go off the barge over the side.

Officials say the crane operator was able to get off in time with no injuries reported.

Norfolk resident Chris Briere regularly travels through the HRBT for work. He recalls hearing about the incident Tuesday.

"It’s pretty crazy. [I'm] glad no one was hurt," Briere told News 3. "Crazy things happen all of the time. This was just like, wow. [It] seemed out of the blue."

This incident did not impact marine or vehicular traffic.

Immediately after the crane walked off (moved by an on-board operator) the barge and into the river, HRCP Marine Incident response crews placed a boom (a floating, physical barrier encircling the area around the crane) to contain and remove any oil or fluids that may escape from the submerged crane.

Meyers says early indications are that both the fuel and oil tanks are intact and were not damaged during the incident, thereby minimizing the amount of fluid that could potentially escape into the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard was made aware of the incident, and, along with the HRCP Marine Team, implemented preventive measures to mitigate any potential environmental issues.

Safety and operations professionals from the contractor, subcontractors and the Virginia Department of Transportation are currently conducting an accident investigation. All of the expansion project's marine operations are at a stand-down Tuesday pending results of the investigation.

A recovery plan is also being finalized to facilitate the recovery of the submerged crane. Meyers says the costs to recover the crane have not yet been calculated, but they say any costs associated with the recovery operation will be handled by the contractor or subcontractors.

Meyers says a bigger crane that will be used to recover the submerged crane is being shipped from Baltimore, where it is currently stationed. Divers checked the submerged crane, and it is resting on the bottom of Willoughby Bay.

He says the various fuel and oil tanks are intact and not leaking, so there is a very low risk of environmental issues.

Meyers said there are beacons placed around the submerged crane to identify its presence to boaters.

There are no other financial impacts to the HRBT Expansion Project from Tuesday's incident, and the timeline of the project has not been impacted, Meyers said. The project is still on track to be completed in the fall of 2025.

Officials tell News 3 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident and has up to six months to complete that process. The agency has not received any complaints, and there have been no reported injuries.

Marine construction activity in the area has also been temporarily suspended.

On February 17, Meyers told News 3 the crane is still in the water and says the HRCP must work with state agencies to plot out its removal. The crane rests at the bottom of the river and is marked with buoys, so there's no possibility of anyone running into it. Crews are also monitoring the crane's position.

As far as a timeline for removal, Meyers says the timeframe is fluid due to HRCP working with various agencies on approvals for the removal plan. He says it's about a three to four week wait as of February 17.

Divers checked out the area, and there is no damage to marine life or bridge infrastructure. According to crews, the crane is safe to stay where it is currently resting.