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ROANOKE RUNNING AGAIN

May 20, 2001 – There were no bottles of champagne uncorked at the dock last Thursday, but the return of Roanoke, the car barge that transports vehicles between St. Thomas and St. John, was cause for celebration. Owner Stanley Hedrington, celebrating both the Roanoke's return and his birthday over the weekend, smiled, waved and welcomed passengers aboard the pristine, freshly painted vessel.
"It feels good to be back," he said standing on the new ramp, a part of $92,000 in repairs made to the vessel at a shipyard in Martinique.
The Roanoke had spent 10 weeks out of commission after being damaged in a March 9 collision in the Cruz Bay harbor with the passenger ferry Carib Tide. The diminished barge service between the two islands caused chaos among commuters, with tempers often flaring as vehicles lined up and jockeyed for position on one of the other barges.
Hedrington said the past two months have "been a nightmare" but he is not bitter — and is even spiritually renewed after the ordeal.
"The hardship has actually made us better," he said, adding that the Roanoke is improved — structurally sound, with safety equipment and its licensing all in order. Hedrington said his insurance company, Great American Insurance Group, helped him get the vessel repaired and ready to pass the Coast Guard's thorough inspections.
A native of Tortola, Hedrington said people have been extraordinarily supportive and he has learned to "really appreciate the community."
"Even though we weren't running, the bills were still coming," he noted, expressing gratitude to those who have kept their accounts current this spring.
Hedrington wouldn't quote a figure for revenue lost since March 9 but called it "a great loss." He said he hopes he'll be able to recoup some of it once the Coast Guard concludes its investigation of the accident, which he said is expected to happen this week.
"It probably won't be a matter of who's at fault and who not," he said, saying he thinks an 80-20 division of blame between the Carib Tide and the Roanoke is likely.
Hedrington said the structural damage to his barge was more extensive than had first appeared and quite extensive, considering the accident happened while both vessels were still in the harbor.
"But it could have been worse," he observed. The head-on impact to the Roanoke's ramp was preferable to a hit on the side of the boat, which could have caused more structural damage and serious injuries, he said.

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