Replica Wreckage Damages Barge

DONALDSONVILLE, Louisiana (AP)_ A towboat ran into the sunken wreckage of a replica 17th-century warship in the Mississippi River, forcing the Coast Guard to shut down a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of the river.    The wreckage of Le Pelican punched a hole that pierced three fuel tanks on the towboat Senator Stennis on Saturday, spilling about 30 gallons (110 liters) of diesel fuel into the river, according to a Coast Guard statement.

    Nobody was hurt in the accident, but the river was closed for more than five hours before being opened to one-way traffic, said Lt. Stephen Nutting of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in New Orleans.

    He said the Coast Guard would decide Sunday whether two-way traffic could resume.

    The original Le Pelican, a warship commanded by Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, sank in 1697 after first sinking two English vessels and running off a third during a battle for a trading post on Hudson Bay in Canada.

    Canadian philanthropist Stewart McDonald built the replica for a reported US$15 million _ a nine-year project that wasn’t completed until 1992. The boat was a tourist attraction in Quebec in the early 1990s, but was sold as too expensive to maintain in the cold, harsh weather.

    A New Jersey businessman bought the ship and moved it to New Orleans in September 1995, hoping the warmer climate would make it work as a tourist attraction. It moved from shipyard to shipyard before the city of Donaldsonville bought it in 2002 for US$55,000.

    Its rotted planking and outrigging replaced, Le Pelican was docked at Donaldsonville, only to sink in November 2002 and again in March 2004.

    The accident is being investigated by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Baton Rouge.

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