MARCO ISLAND — An early morning crashing sound led several Marco Island residents to discover that a 17-ton capacity crane had fallen from a sinking barge, tearing through a residential boat dock on Sunday morning.
Several agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Marco Island Code Enforcement, are investigating the amount of oil and fuel that spilled into the canal along Sea Court, said Marco Island police Capt. Dave Baer.
Gary Riss, neighbor to the destroyed dock, said he heard a crash, but it wasn’t alarmingly loud.
“We heard what we didn’t know, at 4 o’clock in the morning... I thought it was just a palm frond,” Riss said.
However, when he woke up a few hours later, at about 8 a.m., he could smell diesel fuel, he said.
Riss went outside and saw the crane had crashed into the water and through his neighbor’s dock, so he called 911, he said.
The barge, owned and operated by Marco Marine Construction, was being used to construct a seawall across the canal along Amazon Court.
“Barges sink a lot, but a crane flip, that’s unusual,” said Donald Ricci, owner of Marco Marine.
The barge was likely taking on water on Saturday, but it wasn’t immediately clear that it was listing, Ricci said, because it looked like the crane was just making the vessel lean to the side without enough weight to counter balance it.
Marco Marine contractors were using a 70-ton capacity crane for several hours attempting to correct the sunken dock and crane. However, the one crane wasn’t able to get the fallen crane upright, so workers were awaiting the arrival of another 70-ton capacity crane early Sunday evening, Ricci said.
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The owner of the wrecked boat dock, located at 798 Sea Ct., is away in Europe, said Fredy Gsell, of Paradise Realty, the listing agency overseeing the property that is for sale.
The vacation rental’s owners, Gerhard Groh and Heidemarie, of Wiesbaden, Germany, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
“I was just happy nobody was hurt,” said their Realtor. “That’s what’s important to me,” Gsell said.
Marco Island Fire Rescue and Marco Island Police departments were among the first on-scene, followed by the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after 8 a.m.
Marco Island police and fire officials immediately contained the fuel spill by spreading boom across the canal, officials said.
While the amount of fuel spill remained to be determined by officials, Ricci said it was likely less than 20 gallons because the engine wasn’t fully submerged.
The fallen crane was cleared from the canal as of Sunday evening.
The cause of the barge’s problems are not known, said Baer, the police captain who also acts as director of code enforcement.
The barge may have started taking on water at some point, causing the barge and crane to lean to the side until the crane finally fell, Ricci said. When the crane fell, it brought half the barge into the water with it, he hypothesized.
“We’ll know more when we get it out of the water,” Ricci said.