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River cruise ship crashes into Main Street Bridge

Coast Guard, FDOT investigate after ship gets wedged under downtown bridge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A large river cruise ship crashed into the Main Street Bridge Friday evening, leaving the vessel wedged underneath and closing the downtown bridge for hours, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

No injuries were reported in the accident, which occurred just before 7:30 p.m., police said. 

The American Star departed from St. Augustine at 11:38 a.m., traveling at an average speed of 9.2 mph, and arrived at the intersection of the St. Johns River and the Intracoastal about 4:45 p.m.

According to a vessel tracking system, the ship did pass under the Main Street Bridge, which has a clearance 36.5 feet when it is lifted, but while the ship was trying to dock on the North Bank, the current caused it to drift back toward the bridge.

A maritime source told News4Jax that the ship was not under pilotage and a possible cause of the crash may have been bow thruster failure.

U.S. Coast Guard inspection officers were called to investigate. Officers said they do not believe the vessel sustained any damage.

Onlookers, including a large crowd attending the Jacksonville Landing's annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, watched intently as emergency crews worked to dislodge the ship from underneath the bridge. 

"We're just chilling out after Thanksgiving and then we come down here and we see this big ship at the Main Street Bridge. It's not like you could see that every night in Jacksonville. So it's awesome that we can come together as a community and just chill out and watch this," Chris Caudill said. 

Another onlooker described the sight as a dramatic event.

"It's more holiday entertainment. It's exciting. Except for the people who are waiting on the other side of the bridge, waiting to get across, then you feel sorry for those people," Tony Knight said.

More than three hours after the crash, the ship was finally able to get loose because of the lowering ride.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, the bridge was damaged when the ship was released, but the extent of the damage is not yet known. 

The bridge reopened to traffic at 11:45p.m. Friday.