A container ship struck a major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to plunge into the river below.

The recent collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, has reignited discussion about a similar tragedy that occurred over 30 years ago in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Judge William Seeber Bridge, also known as the Claiborne Bridge, experienced a catastrophic failure on May 28, 1993, when it was struck by a barge.

According to the Associated Press, the incident involved the towboat Chris pushing an empty hopper barge into one of the bridge's supports, resulting in the bending and collapse of two spans onto the barge below. This event led to two vehicles, carrying a total of three individuals, falling into a canal beneath the bridge, resulting in one fatality and two serious injuries.

Investigations conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that the bridge was predisposed to collapse due to design flaws, including inadequate protection of the approach piers and a vulnerability in the design of the span supports. The fallout from the collapse included a two-day closure of the canal to navigation and a two-month shutdown of the bridge to vehicle traffic.

From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collision, with a total of 342 people killed, according to a 2018 report from the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. Eighteen of those collapses happened in the United States.

Including the Seeber Bridge collapse in New Orleans, here is a list of notable disasters involving ships or barges hitting bridges in the U.S.:


March 20, 2009: A vessel pushing eight barges rammed into the Popp’s Ferry Bridge in Biloxi, Mississippi, resulting in a 150-foot section of the bridge collapsing into the bay.


May 26, 2002: A barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, collapsing a 500-foot section of road and plunging vehicles into the water. Fourteen people died and 11 were injured.


Sept. 15, 2001: A tugboat and barge struck the Queen Isabella Causeway in Port Isabel, Texas, causing a midsection of the bridge to tumble 80 feet into the bay below. Eight people died after motorists drove into the hole.


April 14, 1998: The Anne Holly tow traveling through the St. Louis Harbor rammed into the center span of the Eads Bridge. Eight barges broke away. Three of them hit a permanently moored gambling vessel below the bridge. Fifty people suffered minor injuries.


Sept. 22, 1993: Barges being pushed by a towboat in dense fog hit and displaced the Big Bayou Canot railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama. Minutes later, an Amtrak train with 220 people aboard reached the displaced bridge and derailed, killing 47 people and injuring 103 people.


May 28, 1993: The towboat Chris, pushing the empty hopper barge DM3021, hit a support tier of the Judge William Seeber Bridge in New Orleans. Two spans and the two-column bent collapsed onto the barge. Two cars carrying three people fell with the four-lane bridge deck into a canal. One person died and two people were seriously injured.


May 9, 1980: The 609-foot freighter Summit Venture was navigating through the narrow, winding shipping channel of Florida’s Tampa Bay when a sudden, blinding squall knocked out the ship’s radar. The ship sheared off a support of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, dropping a 1,400-foot section of concrete roadway during the morning rush hour. Seven vehicles, including a bus with 26 aboard, fell 150 feet into the water. Thirty-five people died.

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Gallery Credit: KATELYN LEBOFF