An out-of-control freighter is being blamed for striking a bridge in Green Bay, Wisc., and flattening a small boat.
The incident happened Sunday afternoon near the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge, a popular spot for locals.
Curt Cornell, general manager of Hagemeister Park restaurant, said patio patrons were taking pictures of the Kaye E. Barker, and then people started “screaming and yelling.”
“We were in the piano bar and noticed the boat was really close,” Cornell told the Green Bay Press-Gazette, adding that the owner of the boat that was crushed was having lunch at the restaurant at the time.
Witnesses said the 230-metre-long ship was attempting to navigate the narrow passage when the captain steering the massive vessel lost control.
“The back end tried to turn but as it turned it hit the docks and it flipped over a couple of kayaks and it crushed this one little boat almost like an aluminum can,” Greta Olsen described to WFRV. “It was crazy.”
WATCH: Witnesses describe watching freighter crushing pleasure boat, smashing into bridge
Nikki Unger, who was also enjoying a sunny day beside the river says the ship never stopped.
“It kept going and you heard this screeching and we looked and it sounded like it was hitting the bridge,” Unger said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Green Bay police pursued the ship after it failed to stop following the crash.
“The freighter had left town.”
“They are going to interview the captain of the freighter to understand what he was thinking what happened and figure out the root cause of why this occurred,” Capt. Kevin Warych of the Green Bay Police Department said Sunday.
Interlake Steamship Co., which owns the ship, said the captain experienced “unexpected and strong currents” as he backed the boat out of the Fox River towards Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
“My understanding is that he came up against the fendering, but not the bridge itself,” Interlake vice-president Tom Wynne told the Press-Gazette.
The state Department of Transportation confirmed the draw bridge was hit and vehicle traffic was suspended and rerouted. The bridge remained up as officials investigated the damage to the bridge and was not lowered for several hours.
Some docks were closed last week by the City of Green Bay due to high water levels, but it’s unclear if that contributed to the accident.
The Kaye E. Barker remains docked in Green Bay as investigators try to determine what caused the crash.
-With files from The Associated Press.