Investigation continues into Waterfront "freak accident"

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) – The Coast Guard is still not sure what went wrong with the Waterfront Restaurant when it broke free from its moorings Friday night, and floated down river about 85 feet, nearly hitting the Clay Bailey Bridge. Covington firefighters are calling it a freak accident.

About 150 people were inside at the time, and they all managed to get off the barge safely.

"Mother Nature does whatever she wants to do and that's just the way it is," said Alan Bernstein with BB Riverboats. Alan knows the river restaurant business. His father started B.B. Riverboats, a Tri-State tradition, which runs year-round, except when the river hits 47.5 feet. "We couldn't operate our boats because we can't get under the bridges. So we wouldn't operate in this river condition anyway."

Because the riverboats actually cruise the river, they must follow Coast Guard regulations, which include having regular drills and evacuation plans in place, but floating restaurants that stay docked don't have additional special codes.

"I don't know how you'd prepare for what happened the other night," said Alan. "I think they go through evacuation procedures, fire procedures, that kind of stuff. You don't anticipate where it's going to go away."

The Covington Fire Department inspects the riverfront restaurants, but calls what happened to the Waterfront just a freak accident. "We'll have to look at this type of situation for future flooding situation," said Lt. Russ Gardella with the Covington Fire Department. "At what point do we not allow boats to stay open? In this situation we just got lucky we had existing ramps still standing so we could access their boat."

Covington Fire Department says the incident could bring new safety procedures for other floating restaurants on the river. The Waterfront is still at its temporary location at Covington Landing, while the Coast Guard continues to investigate what went wrong.

The Covington Police Department is now working overtime to monitor the area. Due to crowds of people watching the boat move to its new location, a high number of parking tickets have been issued.

Police ask that if you're heading to Covington Landing, to please obey all traffic laws and not cross any barriers.

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