HAMPTON, N.H. — Dented and dripping, the 35,000-pound excavator recently dumped unceremoniously under the Hampton Harbor Bridge rose from the depths yesterday morning, without incident, while a bevy of bystanders recorded every moment on their cell phones.
But the retrieval of the machine might not be the end of the story for the company responsible for its accidental swim in local waters. Government agencies are still investigating the incident, and fines could be in the offing.
Lifting the excavator from its temporary resting place in 16 feet of water was the physical portion of the aftermath of an incident that took place during the Army Corps of Engineers’ current dredge of the harbor. The problem began around 10 p.m. Thursday, when workers with the Army Corps’ dredge contractor, Southwind of Indiana, noticed their unmanned barge was taking on water in the outer harbor. The 10-foot-tall, 28-foot-long John Deere 160D LC excavator was on the barge, because it’s used to couple dredge piping together, Army Corps officials said.
Using a push boat, Southwind workers attempted to get the barge and its cargo back to the dock in Seabrook. But the barge’s list became too severe, the cable securing the excavator snapped and it slid into the sea around midnight.
Thankfully no one was injured, but the excavator landed smack dab under the middle of the bridge, in the boating channel of what’s the busiest commercial harbor in the Granite State.
Considered a serious hazard to navigation, the Coast Guard set up a 100-yard security zone around the machine using buoys. In addition, the Coast Guard monitored the situation, and provided personnel on the bridge yesterday morning during the recovery effort as well as a boat in the harbor.
According to Bob Casoli, senior construction representative for the Army Corps of Engineers, Southwind officials made the arrangements for salvage. The company hired East Boston-based BTT Marine Construction Company, which sent its barge crane to the scene. Portsmouth’s Black Dog Divers were also hired to help secure the lines to the excavator.