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Originally published Friday, May 10, 2013 at 6:56 AM

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NTSB to hold hearing on Ky. bridge collapse

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday about the collapse of a western Kentucky bridge over the Tennessee River after it was struck by a cargo ship.

Associated Press

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. —

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday about the collapse of a western Kentucky bridge over the Tennessee River after it was struck by a cargo ship.

The board is scheduled to discuss the Jan. 26, 2012, wreck near Aurora, Ky. Late that night, the Delta Mariner ran into the Eggner's Ferry Bridge, causing a 322-foot section of the span to fall into the river.

There were no injuries, and no pollution was reported.

Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the NTSB, said the board will hear details of the wreck from investigators, as well as the likely cause of the accident. The board will then consider whether to accept the report and recommendations. Holloway said no information about the report will be released until Tuesday.

"This is basically the conclusion of the investigation," Holloway said.

Kentucky officials are seeking $7.1 million in damages from the company that operated the cargo ship. BellSouth Telecommunications filed a $59,000 damages claim, and the owners of a nearby restaurant filed a $33,000 claim for lost income while the bridge was being repaired for four months. The ship's owner, Foss Maritime, has asked a federal judge to rule it was not responsible for causing the collapse because some of the bridge's lights were not working.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials acknowledged that some bridge lights were out, but said the Coast Guard issued a series of warnings to mariners about the bridge before the wreck.

The Delta Mariner approached the bridge at a point that wasn't high enough for it to pass under, and the impact tore away the span and roadway. Bits of twisted steel and asphalt attached to the bow of the ship, halting its voyage.

Under maritime law, Foss Maritime doesn't have to sue another party. Instead, it asks a judge to rule on the extent of liability and to halt all other lawsuits and legal proceedings while that determination is made.

The deadline for claims passed in December. The company moved in January to stop any further claims from being filed.

The Delta Mariner was carrying an Atlas rocket booster and other components for the U.S. Air Force's AEHF-2 mission from Decatur, Ala., to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a trip that normally takes about 10 days. The rocket parts were not damaged, and there was no change in the scheduled launch date, the company has said.

The missing span halted traffic on U.S. 68 between the western shore of Kentucky Lake and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

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Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquere

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