FORT WALTON BEACH — The Brooks Bridge is now open after a barge carrying a crane crashed into the west side of the bridge Wednesday afternoon, according to Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Ian Satter.
Satter said all lanes are open to vehicles and temporary repairs have been made to the sidewalk and barrier wall on the bridge. The eastbound side of the bridge remains closed to pedestrians.
U.S. Coast Guard Seaman John Moon said boats are currently not being allowed under the bridge. He did not know how long that would be in effect.
A water line for Okaloosa Island that ruptured in the accident had also been repaired by Thursday morning, but residents on the island are under a precautionary boil water notice for now, according to Okaloosa County spokeswoman Kathy Newby.
All affected customers should boil water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, washing dishes, bathing and brushing teeth until further notice.
The notice will remain in effect until a bacteriological survey shows that the water is safe to drink.
The bridge was closed to all motorists and pedestrians for several hours after the crash due to the damage caused by the crane. It remained closed to eastbound traffic until about 9 p.m. when officials were able to open one lane in each direction.
To try to ease traffic snarls, tolls on the Mid-Bay Bridge were temporarily suspended Wednesday and early Thursday but had resumed at 6 a.m. Thursday, according to Satter.
Crews from the FDOT and the Okaloosa County Water and Sewer Department worked throughout the night making repairs to the bridge and the water pipe.
The crash that caused all the damage occurred at 3:15 p.m. as the tugboat Miss Lizzy was pushing four barges two-by-two east in Santa Rosa Sound, according to officials at Coast Guard Station Destin. The crane on one of the barges hit the bridge.
The impact took down several feet of the concrete guardrail and broke a water pipe that runs underneath the eastbound sidewalk on the bridge. Concrete and water from the pipe poured into Santa Rosa Sound.
No one was hurt and no vehicles crossing the bridge were damaged, said Randy McDaniel, Okaloosa County’s emergency management director.
Satter said the next step for FDOT is to again assess the bridge's structure for safety purposes.
"We wanted to get it open as quickly as we could," Satter said. "Especially because we have people trying to get to work, school and with spring break season. Everything is safe and secure at this point."
Satter said a damage estimate wasn't available yet, but did say the repair costs will not come from Okaloosa County's state transportation budget.
"Somebody will be held liable for the damages," he said.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Cory Walters said a chief warrant officer with the Coast Guard's Panama City station has already interviewed the barge operator. No other details on the investigation were immediately available.