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JP Councilman calls for investigation into salvage company after barges hit Kerner Bridge twice

We went to Tom's Marine and Salvage, where the owner, Tom Khai Dinh, was eager to tell his side of the story.

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — A Jefferson Parish City Council member wants a multiple-agency investigation into a boat salvage yard in Lafitte. 

Councilmember-at-Large for Division A, Ricky Templet says in less than a year, during Hurricanes Ida and Zeta, several vessels got loose from Tom’s Marine and Salvage before crashing into the Leo Kerner Bridge. 

The owner of the company, however, is defending himself and claims he did the best he could to prevent this from happening, but recent storms have been just too strong.

The reopened Friday bridge weeks after officials said at least three vessels, including a barge, crashed into it during Ida. According to Templet, the ships got loose from Tom's during the storm and destroyed the bridge. Templet says this isn’t the first time.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “This is the second time in less than a year that the bridge has been knocked out of service.”

Templet says the vessels knocked the only way for Barataria residents to cross over Bayou Barataria to the mainland. The bridge being out made it much more difficult to fight a fire that destroyed six homes two days after Ida.

The National Guard had to install a floating bridge as a temporary solution.

During hurricane Zeta, Templet says, the bridge was also damaged by ships at Tom’s Marine and Salvage. Cars had to be ferried across the bayou. Now, Templet wants an investigation into the company he says is responsible.

“We had a unanimous vote by the whole council to do a total investigation, asking the DEQ, the state, the parish, as well as the coast guard to look at all permits that are granted through them and look at revoking those permits,” Templet said.

We went to Tom's Marine and Salvage, where the owner, Tom Khai Dinh, was eager to tell his side of the story.

According to Dinh, the barge belonged to a friend. They secured it to two sunken shrimp boats and believed it would hold during the storm. When the boats got loose Dinh says he tried to go after the vessels with the captain of the barge, but the weather was too much to handle.

“It was so fast Mr. Paul,” said Dinh, speaking with WWLTV’s Paul Dudley. “It was fast. It was running down stream, like 100 miles an hour, we couldn’t catch it. We caught it down there, but the barge had already hit the bridge.”

Dinh says since the storm his business has taken a hit. He says an investigation is not necessary and that he tried everything he could to prevent this from happening including two days in advance and securing all of the boats and equipment the company owns.

“I went out there,” Dinh said. “I risked my life and I didn’t worry about anything else. I was worried about the public here, people here. If it hits the bridge it’s going to be a problem.”

Templet, on the other hand, says the company had a total disregard for the safety of the citizens of Jefferson Parish and believes an investigation to prove that.