NEW BEDFORD — Two people were injured when a dilapidated stretch of dock collapsed into the New Bedford harbor on Wednesday.
A section of bulkhead spanning about 200 feet by 40 feet was under construction when it split from the rest of the pier and sank in the port, Fire Chief Scott Kruger said. The structure was supported by wooden piles and capped with concrete.
Four people fell into the water as the dock collapsed, Chief Kruger said. Two were taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
The waterfront property is owned by R.C.P Realty, which lists Ronald Enoksen as manager, property records show. Ronald Enoksen is the president of Eastern Fisheries, a New Bedford company that is the largest scallop company on the East Coast. He is the son of Roy Enoksen, founder of Eastern Fisheries. The pier was used to dock some scallop vessels in the Eastern Fisheries fleet.
“It was very, very sudden,” Roy Enoksen said, in a brief interview with The Light. “We’re just lucky there were no fatalities.”
The company purchased the waterfront property from the city in 2018 for $1.1 million under the condition that the company rebuild the deteriorating bulkhead, property records show. Enoksen said repairs were underway at the time of the collapse.
Chief Kruger said the fire department’s main concern at this time is removing all of the industrial material and containing any fluid leaks. He said it is possible heavy construction equipment, including a crane and a Bobcat, fell into the water during the collapse.
“It’s a big operation, trying to retrieve all this debris,” he told reporters at the scene. “We’re concerned about the hydraulic fluid and diesel that was on the bulkhead when it collapsed.”
Drone footage of dock collapse, two injured. Video credit: Eric Crowley
The city, the New Bedford Port Authority and Eastern Fisheries have long known about the deteriorating conditions on the stretch of dock between Hervey Tichon Avenue and Antonio Costa Avenue (off Herman Melville Boulevard).
Eastern Fisheries began leasing the waterfront property in 1982. Most recently, the scallop company was paying $42,864 in rent to the city as part of a 99-year lease. But in January of 2018, the city began soliciting requests to sell off multiple parcels on the stretch of waterfront.
The city contracted an inspection of the properties at the time, which found the pier spanning all three properties to be in “poor condition” and that “some piles were observed to be completely deteriorated.”
The real estate group acting on behalf of Eastern Fisheries purchased the 2.8 acre waterfront property in September of 2018 for $1.1 million. The company also purchased another 2.9 acre parcel on the same stretch of dock for an additional $1 million. In his proposal that year, Enoksen wrote: “The bulkhead of the properties is currently in a serious state of disrepair.”
Enoksen’s proposal continued: “Eastern and their related entities have the financial wherewithal to purchase, repair and maintain the properties in question and are prepared to do so if they are the successful bidder.”
In an interview Wednesday, Enoksen said he was unsure of the cause of the collapse.
“There’s nothing to say. It collapsed,” he said. “We are going to take serious steps to fix it. But it’s still too soon to say anything.”
“Our thoughts go out to everyone involved, particularly the injured workers and we hope for their full and speedy recovery,” Gordon Carr, executive director of the New Bedford Port Authority, wrote.
The collapse possibly causes further issues for other companies on that part of the waterfront, including clam company Sea Watch International. Its processing plant, which is on property that it continues to lease from the city, is sandwiched between both waterfront properties that Eastern Fisheries bought from the city in 2018.
On Wednesday, the crew of the Lady Brittany, a clam vessel in the Sea Watch fleet, was unloading large, steel cages of clams from the ship as emergency responders descended on the neighboring dock.
Anthony Seiger, a fisherman on the Lady Brittany, pointed to a long, wide crack stretching from the collapsed portion of the Eastern Fisheries dock through the Sea Watch pier and into the Eastern Fisheries property on the other side. Over the last few years, Seiger said, he has seen the crack grow from a hairline fracture in the concrete to a foot-wide chasm splitting the dock from the land.
“It’s always a concern,” he said. “Unless someone fixes it, it’s just a matter of time before it all comes down.”
Email reporter Will Sennott at email@example.com.