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Early-morning barge crash destroys Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club, cause remains under investigation

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A barge crash on the Ohio River has destroyed a Northern Kentucky landmark.

Police cordoned off the entrance to the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club as an investigation into a barge crash that destroyed the popular restaurant and marina began Wednesday (photos by Mark Hansel, click to enlarge).

A large tow-and-barge combination struck the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club Wednesday morning and the iconic complex, a destination for residents throughout Northern Kentucky and beyond, appears to be a total loss.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jim Brendel, detachment supervisor for the Cost Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Cincinnati, provided details of the crash.

“This morning at 6:05, a 1,200 foot tow-and-barge combination on the Ohio River struck the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club Restaurant and Marina, Brendel said. “There was no loss of life or personal injury and no contamination resulted from this incident.

The tow boat, later identified as the Dale Artigue, is a seven-year-old vessel owned by Florida Marine Transporters.

At times people  stay on boats at the marina overnight, but Wednesday morning there was only one person on a houseboat, and he managed to escape unscathed.

There was, however, substantial damage to the Yacht Club complex, which almost certainly can’t be repaired.

Following the crash, a four-mile section of the Ohio River was closed to all traffic including recreational vessels.

“We are now transitioning to a salvage operation,” Brendel said. “We will reopen the river as soon as possible, we don’t know when that moment will be.”

An investigation into the incident is being conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. There is no timeline, but typically these investigations can take weeks or even months.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jim Brendel provides details of a tow-and-barge crash on the Ohio river Wednesday that destroyed the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club.

Brendel was reluctant to provide details while the investigation is still underway, but the visual evidence offered some insights into what happened.

A portion of the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club complex, including the kitchen, sits crumpled against the shoreline Wednesday afternoon.

A portion of the complex, which included the kitchen, was crumpled against the shoreline.

Other docks, including the bandstand, bar and dining areas were detached by the barge and carried several yards downriver, where they remained late Wednesday.

That portion of the facility, which was still hung up on the barge, began to drift in the water at one point, but was quickly secured by crews on scene. One section, described by employees as the “cornhole dock,” suffered serious visible damage.

Two employees, who did not want to be named, were observing that portion of the complex from a park across the street from Ludlow High School.

Both said they had been with the Yacht Club for about four years and called it a really fun place to work. One of them said he was scheduled to report to work about half an hour after the crash.

Six boats from the marina were cast adrift by the impact and were moored in the river, near the barges.

Several boats that were cast adrift in the crash are moored in the Ohio River near the tow-and-barge combination that crashed into the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club Wednesday morning.

“We are asking all boaters who have vessels at this marina to be patient. We cannot let anyone move their boats, until we know it is safe,” Brendel said. “The salvage team is working with nearby marinas to provide storage for boats.”

The Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club is an extremely popular spot and on busy nights caters to capacity crowds.

Ludlow Police Chief Scott Smith said under the circumstances it was a best case scenario, adding that if the crash had happened on a Friday or Saturday night, it could have been much worse.

Brendel said the barge was a normal configuration for the Ohio River, which is three wide by five long. It was carrying mostly rock, sand and gravel, with one styrene barge in the back.

There was no damage to the barges or the towing vessel and Brendel said Coast Guard officials spoke with the captain of the Dale Artigue, but would not elaborate on the conversation.

Several people were observing the wreckage from a walkway at the adjacent Celebrations Riverboats.

Jan Peek, who lives nearby and is a regular at the Yacht Club, said she heard about the crash on the news and came down to check it out. She was already talking about one of her favorite hangouts in the past tense.

A portion of the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club complex remained attached to the tow-and-barge combination that crashed into the restaurant and marina Monday afternoon. The barge came to rest several yards upriver from the impact site.

“It was just a really fun place,” she said. “It’s such a shame.”

Ed Conrad, a CERT with the Delhi Fire Department who lives in nearby Villa Hills, was awakened with a call shortly after 6 a.m. and was asked to come down and take pictures.

He said he had been to the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club several times and called it an institution.

“Even if they rebuild it, and I don’t know how they can, it’ll never be the same as it was,” Conrad said.

The owner of Celebrations Riverboats said his facility suffered some minor damage, but it appeared to be intact.

The barges were heading northbound on the river, upstream, and something caused it to collide with the restaurant/marina facility.

Brendel wouldn’t say how far off course the barge was except that it was, “outside of the channel, because he hit the restaurant.”

“There could be any number of things that could cause a collision like this, right now it would be premature for me to mention anything,” Brendel said. “Rest assured, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Coast Guard are investigating what caused this accident and then we are also going to be looking at how to prevent it from happening in the future.”

The Dale Artigue, a seven-year-old vessel owned by Florida Marine Transporters remained upriver from the site where barges it was towing crashed into the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club Wednesday morning.

About a year ago, some new buoys were installed on the river near the crash site.

The buoys were placed because a sunken barge shifted and created issues when the water level was low, but Brendel said they are located outside of the navigable channel.

The average depth in what is called the Markland Pool has a minimum navigation depth of 26 feet, at low water. The river level was estimated at between 26.5 and 27 feet at the time of the crash.

“That will be something that we will look at with this investigation, that’s all going to be part of it,” Brendel said. “We will be looking for any video from different facilities, anything the public can provide, we do have a couple of sources of video that will be included in our investigation.

Typically a vessel the size of the one involved in the crash will have several crew members, including a captain, or pilot, engineers and deckhands.

“At any given time, your going to have one person driving the boat and one person on lookout, making sure everything is OK on deck,” Brendel said.

Several agencies responded to the crash scene including fire departments from Ludlow, Cincinnati and Covington, Ludlow Police, Boone County Water Rescue, Kenton County and Campbell County emergency management crews, Kenton County Police, the American Red Cross, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky EPA, SD1 and Duke Energy.

The history of the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club dates to the 1950s. This photo shows the club as it looked in 1977. The current owners have had it for more than two decades (Kentucky Post photo courtesy go the Kenton County Public Library).

The history of the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club dates back to the 1950s and 60s. The current owners revived the marina and it is now in its 21st year under their leadership.

The Coast Guard is working with salvage companies in the area to assess what debris is in the middle of the river, so it can be removed and the waterway can be reopened.

“There are multiple options on the table…once wave have a plan that we’ve all agreed upon they we’ll go ahead and execute it,” Brendel said.

The salvage operation was expected to take several hours and the impacted section of the river could reopen today.

The tow boat will remain on the scene until it is released by the Coast Guard.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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One Comment

  1. Birch Teddy says:

    Can’t find good help nowadays. Everyone is too soft to work at all or are all drugged up. Im surprised they can find enough people to even float a barge in todays world. a plumber is going to get better pay soon more than doctors, note that down.

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