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Towboat pilot in bridge collapse surrenders license

Oklahoman Published: July 31, 2002
TULSA (AP) - The pilot of a towboat that collided with an interstate highway bridge, collapsing part of it, has surrendered his pilot's license to the U.S. Coast Guard.

William Joe Dedmon, 61, voluntarily turned over his license to Coast Guard authorities after the May 26 accident, his attorney, Joel Wohlgemuth, told the Tulsa World.

Dedmon has not returned to work for Magnolia Marine Transport Co. but has no plans to retire yet, Wohlgemuth said.

"He's on leave, basically," he said. "He's hopeful he'll have the opportunity to obtain his license from the Coast Guard at some future day."

Dedmon cannot get his license back until a medical review and the investigation of the bridge collapse are complete, authorities said Wednesday.

Dedmon was at the wheel when his towboat and two barges it was pushing veered off course and struck a pier supporting the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River. Several piers collapsed, and about 500 feet of bridge plunged into the murky water.

Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the river.

The bridge was closed for more than two months. It reopened Monday after an around-the-clock, $12.4 million rebuilding effort by a Texas construction firm.

Dedmon, of Florence, Miss., was not talking publicly about the accident, Wohlgemuth said. However, he is complying with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident and could release a report sometime this year.

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