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Gateway Clipper boat strikes Veterans Bridge

| Friday, June 20, 2014, 9:07 p.m.

About 180 passengers on a Gateway Clipper cruise got a little more excitement than they bargained for when the riverboat lost power and drifted into the Veterans Bridge on Friday night, shattering hundreds of glasses in the bar but causing what officials said was no real damage.

“The captain said, ‘Brace for impact.' As he said ‘impact,' we hit the bridge support,” said 13-year-old Angela DeRosimo of Miami, who was on the Gateway Princess with other family members to help her grandfather, Jeffrey Hrynda, celebrate his 59th birthday. “It sounded like a car crash.”

A few passengers were examined by paramedics but did not seek hospital treatment, said Terry Wirginis, president and owner of the Gateway Clipper fleet. There was no damage to the boat, he said.

State Fish and Boat Commission personnel examined the bridge. There did not appear to be any structural damage, Pittsburgh Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.

The paddlewheel-style riverboat was traveling along the Allegheny River near the North Shore shortly after 7:30 p.m. when the captain noticed the air control throttle was losing pressure, Wirginis said.

“He followed procedure and dropped anchor and stabilized the boat,” Wirginis said, explaining that it takes time once the anchor is dropped for the craft to stop drifting and establish position.

Hrynda's wife, Joan, said a number of passengers, including her husband and 4-year-old granddaughter, were on the deck and did not hear the captain's voice on the loudspeaker telling everyone to get to their seats.

The South Hills resident said she screamed for her husband to hold onto the child.

After impact, she said, “nobody told us anything. We didn't know if the boat was sinking. We didn't know if we should get life jackets on. It was scary.”

Another craft in the fleet, The Duchess, was in the area and maneuvered up to the Gateway Princess and towed it back to the Station Square docks, Wirginis said.

The experience rattled Joan Hrynda, who said she loves the Gateway Clipper fleet and takes cruises regularly.

“It seemed like nobody knew what to do, like they hadn't trained for this,” Hrynda said. “Thank God it was nothing worse.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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