A brief stop by the West Branch went badly for a Westport fish truck driver Tuesday evening.
He was standing next to the truck taking in the view at the top of the Hix Bridge boat ramp when the truck started to roll.
His efforts to hold it back were fruitless and soon the truck was drifting out into the river. The heavy front end went under, but the stern end, the airtight refrigerated box marked F/V TNT, stayed afloat and the truck wound up briefly wedged beneath the bridge.
Harbormaster Richie Earle said he was about to have dinner at 6:45 p.m. when the police called.
“They told me to get my boat up to Hix Bridge — there was a truck hung up under Hix Bridge.”
He told them it would be a few minutes — “the bridge is five miles up the river.” En-route he summoned Assistant Harbormaster Gary Tripp, who left a pizza parlor to meet Mr. Earle at the ramp. When the harbormaster arrived 20 minutes later, he and Gary Tripp went out to the truck, which by then had been pulled loose from the bridge and was secured to the floats at the end of the ramp.
Also there were four more Tripps — “There are a lot of Tripps in this story,” Mr. Earle said. Tom Tripp, the box truck driver, had been joined on shore by truck owner Brian Tripp. Brian Tripp also owns the fishing boat TNT at Westport Harbor and uses the truck to transport his catch.
First on the scene was Kendal Tripp, with his workboat from Tripp Marine Construction across the river. He, along with Pine Tripp and Alan Brewster, had managed to haul the truck free from beneath the bridge and tie it to the floats.
“It was pretty buoyant and pulled out easily,” Pine Tripp said. “But the tide was coming in, and before long it might have been wedged under.”
When the harbormasters arrived, they attached a heavy line around a pipe at the back end of the truck and guided it toward the ramp, where Gary Tripp’s other truck waited. They hitched the line to that truck and Gary Tripp tried to pull the fish truck up.
“But it only got part way out and then fetched up,” Mr. Earle said.
By then, Brayton Towing had arrived with a bigger truck and managed to winch the fish truck the rest of the way up onto land.
“He couldn’t have been a happy camper,” Mr. Earle said of the truck owner. “That salt water gets into everything … it’s a mess.”
Mr. Earle said the truck was in trouble the moment it started to roll. It was high tide and “the water drops off real fast right at the end of the ramp to about 10 feet.”
Across the river at Tripp Marine Construction, Adam Bertrand saw the truck rolling into the river At first he and others feared someone might be inside, but when it became clear that the truck was unoccupied, he snapped pictures (seen here) with his cell phone.
“It was pretty lively here for awhile,” he said.
Launching ramp mishaps
Mr. Earle said this adventure was unique although he has been called to plenty of vehicles in distress at Westport boat ramps over the years.
Some of these have been at the state ramp.
“People leaving the Back Eddy ask how to get back to Route 88 … someone tells them to go out of the parking lot and take a hard left, which they do,” right down the ramp and into the river. “That’s happened at least twice.”
Another driver came to grief when he tried to launch his boat and it floated, lifting the trailer with it. “No matter how hard he tried, that boat wouldn’t let go of the trailer … Turned out he had painted the boat bottom and it was still a bit wet when he put it on the trailer … “Stuck like glue” to the carpeted flat bed trailer.