Residents feel loss after loose barge strikes Buckroe Fishing Pier


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A portion of the Buckroe Fishing Pier collapsed Sunday morning after a loose barge struck the pier, officials say.

Hampton Fire officials along with Hampton Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Virginia Marine Resources Commission responded.

According to Hampton dispatch, calls for a “loose barge” came around 5:40 a.m. Sunday, however, they did not receive calls about it running into the pier until 9 a.m.

Witnessing the impact

Freddy Bonilla expected a relaxing weekend with family in Hampton by Buckroe Beach, but ended up shooting a video of the barge hitting the pier.

“We’re eating breakfast cause he has the view of the beach and then all of a sudden my wife says hey what’s that big black thing sticking up in the air?” he said.

The couple first saw it off in the distance then they quickly realized what was happening.

“We just see what is like a pontoon type of thing and it just shouldn’t be there and it is just floating and you can see it thrashing against the pier,” he said.

At the time Freddy, who is behind the camera, also got worried.

“I was thinking well hopefully there is no one on the pier fishing cause they’ll be stuck over there if that thing falls down, but I was just thinking ‘wow it’s gonna fall it’s gonna fall,'” he said.

Photo Courtesy – Hampton Police (taken before the pier collapsed)

The beach is closed from Resort to Seaboard to all traffic, including vehicular and foot. Crews were on the scene attempting to secure the loose barge.

According to Hampton police, there were people on the pier. Police say they were evacuated as the barge got closer.

Cpl. Amanda Moreland says no one was hurt.

“Just because of the storm and the wind it has continued to drift and then it struck the Buckroe Fishing Pier, and caused a portion of it to collapse,” Moreland said.

Winds were so strong they carried the barge from one city to another.

“It was determined that it actually wasn’t secured in Hampton, it was from another jurisdiction, so it had drifted quite a ways,” Moreland said.

Police say the barge owner is being cooperative and they have all hands on deck, or pier in this case.

Moreland said: “Public works is out here assisting with the barge owner and Hampton fire, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard. All of them are coordinating together.”

Recovery, repair

Around 3 p.m., with help from a couple of tug boats, the barge did make it out to sea.

The Coast Guard said it doesn’t believe there are “any structural integrity problems” with the barge.

“Once we get it away from the beach a marine surveyor will go on board. When he gets on board we will check all the void spaces to ensure there are no problems,” said Cmdr. Dean Horton with the Coast Guard.

Back on the beach, there is still one problem: the community’s beloved pier is gone.

“It has been a rough year we’ve had some tragedies on the beach,” said Kathy Dermanis, President Buckroe Improvement League, while looking at the pier Monday afternoon. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Some residents think the pier will take a while to rebuild.

Dermanis agrees.

“It’s always been a tight-knit community, and so to see any kind of devastation down here hit our community hard, it doesn’t matter if it’s a hurricane … we all work together as a group and hope for the best,” she said.

The city said the pier was built in 2009. The pier is popular with fishermen from across Hampton Roads, as well as people from out-of-state. It has 36,500 visitors a year and brings in revenue of about $336,815 per year, a little more than its operating cost.

A private fishing pier that was on the site previously was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The City of Hampton spent $4.1 million for the property and construction of a new pier and bait and snack shop. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission contributed $750,000 to the project.

The current pier is 706 feet long with shelters, cleaning stations and floodlights. In 2015, the Buckroe Fishing Pier was renamed the James T. Wilson Fishing Pier in honor of the city’s retiring Parks and Recreation director.

The fishing pier will remain closed until it can be rebuilt. There is no estimated timetable yet, but will likely be a lengthy process. The first step is for engineers to determine the extent of the damage.

(Video Courtesy – Karen Freddy Bonilla)

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