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Originally published Monday, February 25, 2013 at 8:09 PM

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Crushed cars fall from barge at Tacoma

The Coast Guard says a barge loaded with crushed cars has reached its destination after emergency repairs fixed a leak that caused the vessel to list and drop several of the cars into Tacoma, Wash.,'s Commencement Bay.

Associated Press

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SEATTLE —

The Coast Guard says a barge loaded with crushed cars has reached its destination after emergency repairs fixed a leak that caused the vessel to list and drop several of the cars into Tacoma, Wash.,'s Commencement Bay.

Lt. Ryan Beck said Monday evening the barge had been towed to Schnitzer Steel, where the load of scrapped cars from Canada can be unloaded for recycling.

State Ecology Department spokeswoman Linda Kent says there's still no exact count on how many cars fell in the water Sunday. She says the first priority is getting the rest of the cars off the barge. Then officials can figure out how to get the dumped cars out of 242 feet of water.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The Washington Ecology Department and others are working on plans to retrieve several crushed cars that fell into water 242 feet deep in Tacoma's Commencement Bay after a barge developed a leak and tipped them over the side.

The department and the Coast Guard didn't know the exact number of cars that landed in the water Sunday, Ecology spokeswoman Linda Kent and Coast Guard spokesman Nathan Littlejohn said.

Officials were initially concerned with stopping the barge from sinking and with a sheen of oil on the surface.

The Amix Marine Service barge, about 200 feet long, carries a load of flattened cars stacked more than 10 layers high with other metal debris on top. The destination is the Schnitzer Steel metal recycling yard on the Hylebos Waterway, said company spokeswoman Louise Bray.

The barge was moored Sunday when a leak caused it to list and the cars started falling into the water. Schnitzer and Amix hired Global Salvage and Diving to make emergency repairs. They fixed a crack in the hull that was about 15 inches long and a quarter-inch wide, Kent said. After they pumped out water the barge was stable again.

Emergency responders put a boom around the barge to contain the sheen. It apparently was residual oil. Liquids are removed from the cars before they are crushed.

A Coast Guard inspector gave approval to tow the barge to Schnitzer at mid-day Monday but gusty winds delayed the half-mile move.

The barge with scrapped cars from the Vancouver area was making a routine trip to the Tacoma recycling yard, said Amix Marine Services President Clark Longmuir.

"These things can happen," Longmuir said. "It was dealt with a quickly as possible."

The state and Coast Guard are investigating how the barge developed a leak. The barge will be inspected again before it returns to Vancouver where Amix plans a thorough evaluation.

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