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St. Albans marina breaks off shore

High water and a fast current pulled a St. Albans boat dock from its moorings, sending it and about a dozen boats in their slips floating freely down the Kanawha River Thursday morning.

St. Albans Fire Chief Steve Parsons said officials received the first call about the situation around 7:15 a.m. Thursday, when someone said they thought they'd seen some of the boats break free in the river.

The boat dock belonged to Lou Wendell Marine Sales and Services in downtown St. Albans.

Wendell could not be reached for comment.

An employee at the marina said he was working with officials to secure the runaway marina and find a way to bring it back up river.

The water was too swift for the St. Albans Fire Department to attempt to secure the dock, Parsons said.

Wendell was forced to find someone to push the boat dock back to shore.

"He made phone calls and got a hold of John Amos Power plant's tug that pushes barges on the river," Parsons said. "That tug went out and got them and pushed the whole section over to the bank and secured them."

The dock was secured about an hour after firefighters received the call that it had broken free, he said.

Parsons had never seen such an incident in his 23 years as a St. Albans firefighter.

"Two or three times a year we'll receive a call that a boat or a dock has broke free and we'll go out and get it," Parsons said, "but I've never seen half a marina go downstream."

Parsons estimated that the runaway dock held 15 to 20 boat slips, which function as garages for boats.  The boats are pulled under a covering to protect them during the winter months.

The dock was originally secured below the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge in St. Albans, Parsons said. He estimated the dock floated three to four miles down the river before it was finally secured.

The construction work on the bridge had nothing to do with the dock breaking free, Parsons said.

"It was just one of those weird things that happen," he said.   

The dock sustained little damage and none of the boats were lost, he said. Parsons believes the dock is now securely tied to the riverbank opposite Poca and near the John Amos Power Plant property.

The runaway dock caused some concern with Putnam County Emergency Services personnel who were worried that it could severely damage the interstate bridge piers, Parsons said.

However, Parsons said the worries were unwarranted.

The piers for interstate bridges are very durable and more than capable of withstanding a hit by a floating boat dock. However, the dock did not strike any of the piers, Parsons said.

Wendell is a responsible business owner who takes good care of his equipment and docks, he said.

Wendell has told Parsons that he will haul the dock back to its original mooring when the river recedes.

The dock is also the home of the St. Albans Fire Department's river rescue boat, Parsons said. However, the boat was not moored in the section of the dock that broke free.

"Typically it would have been moved to one of the slips on that part of the dock by now," Parsons said. "But it hadn't been moved yet."

Staff writer Jared Hunt also contributed to this story.  

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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