FORT WALTON BEACH — A barge hit the fender surrounding a set of pilings at Brooks Bridge on U.S. Highway 98 between Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island early Saturday morning, according to the Florida Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The bridge itself was not damaged, according to FDOT spokesman Ian Satter, who said a crew from the department was on scene by 5 a.m. Saturday to assess the bridge and make repairs on the fender system. The fender system, constructed of steel, wood and rock, is designed to keep boats and other vessels from striking the bridge pilings themselves
According to a spokesman for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile, which includes the Florida panhandle, an investigation into the circumstances of the barge striking the bridge fender is continuing. As of Monday, the Coast Guard was working to contact the operator of the vessel that struck the bridge fender, according to Coast Guard Sector Mobile spokesman Lt. (j.g.) Juston Lee.
This latest incident at Brooks Bridge comes two weeks after the underside of the bridge was struck by a barge carrying tall pieces of heavy equipment, prompting the closure of the structure to vehicular and pedestrian traffic for several hours during the night of April 27 and the morning of April 28. The bridge was reopened shortly after 1 a.m. April 28 after an FDOT inspection determined that it remained structurally sound.