Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Wednesday, September 19, 2001


Suit Preserves State's Interest in Repairing Link to South Padre Island

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn filed suit in Cameron County District Court in Brownsville today against a marine towing company in Aransas County, asking the court to rule for the state in recovery of damages to the Queen Isabella Causeway last weekend. The causeway, technically Texas Highway 100, is the sole link from the South Texas mainland to South Padre Island.

A tugboat pushing a flotilla of barges in the Laguna Madre waterway early Saturday morning struck a bridge support, causing a large section of the roadway bridge to fall free. Several motorists drove through this wide gap and into the waterway some 80 feet below. Five deaths have been confirmed, although some people are still reported missing.

The Attorney General's Office, representing the Texas Department of Transportation, is asking the court to declare Brown Water Towing I Inc. and Brown Water Marine Service Inc. of Rockport as negligent and liable for damages to the bridge.

"This incident has resulted in major damage to the crucial link to the mainland for the many thousands living on and visiting the island," said Attorney General Cornyn. "Unfortunately, the incident also placed many motorists in harm's way. The vessel operators failed to abide by even the most fundamental 'rules of the road' as these pertain to navigable waters."

The petition alleges that the company failed to:

  • Maintain lookout and chart a safe course;
  • Use global positioning systems, radar, navigation charts or navigational equipment properly;
  • Take appropriate action to assess prevailing conditions to avoid the collision;
  • Properly train the crew to ensure their safe operation of the tugboat.

Cornyn's office also asks the court for state recovery of funds set aside for chartering ferries to transport people and vehicles to and from the island, as well for construction of a dock to accommodate vehicles. In addition, recovery of lost state sales and fuel tax revenues tied to commerce on the island will be sought.

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