CBS 5 / KCBS / AP / BCN) SAN FRANCISCO
A large container ship traveling through dense fog ran into a tower supporting the Bay Bridge's center span between Treasure Island and San Francisco on Wednesday. The accident caused no structural damage to the span, officials said, but the ship's hull suffered a large gash that poured about 58,000 gallons of fuel in the bay.
Visibility was limited during the time of the collision due to the fog - which was a factor in the accident, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Anya Hunter.
The 900-foot Hanjan Shipping's Cosco Busan freighter was coming from Oakland when it struck the Delta Tower, west of Yerba Buena Island on the San Francisco side, around 8:30 a.m. The damaged ship, with a large gash on its side, leaked fuel into the water for 20 to 30 minutes.
“They did suffer a strike to the forward portion of the vessel and some oil was spilled in the water. They transferred oil to another portion of the boat and so they were able to stop the flow,” explained Hunter.
California Department of Transportation structural engineers examined the bridge after the accident, but concluded that it was fully protected from damage by a tower fender system. After assessing the bridge, they declared it was intact and still safe to cross.
Traffic on the bridge was not affected or disrupted by the accident and drivers did not feel the impact of the collision, CalTrans spokesman Bart Ney said.
After the mishap, the cargo vessel was docked and anchored north of Treasure Island and outside the channel. It was examined by Coast Guard crews who reported damage to the forward right and left sides of the ship.
Officials said the ship was piloted by an experienced captain and the cause of the rare accident remained under investigation.
San Francisco police and the Coast Guard enforced a 100-foot safety zone around the leaked fuel and the vessel. Crews attempted to contain the fuel by placing absorbing materials over the area.
The city's public health department said that several people near the spilled fuel at the Port of San Francisco experienced headaches and nausea from inhaling fumes vaporizing into the air, but health officials indicated that no one was at risk from long-term health effects.
The leak prompted the closures of five San Francisco beaches—Fort Point, Kirby Cove, Baker Beach, China Beach and Crissy Field—while authorities worked to clean up the oil, the Coast Guard said. Signs were posted warning the public not to swim or fish in several areas, and a hot line was set up to take reports of fouled wildlife.
Meantime, an Army Corps of Engineers crew collected large wooden chunks from a 100-foot section of the bridge tower's protective bumper that broke off into the water.