Safety of pier questioned

FORT MORGAN PIER SAFETY QUESTIONED

Hubert “BJ” Johnson’s body was found Monday, March 31 in just a few feet of water less than 100 feet off the pier at Fort Morgan State Park. Yet he couldn’t save himself. Dive team captain, Melvin Sheppard told us the water may be shallow, but it’s treacherous.

“There’s two old barges that lay underneath the pier,” Sheppard said. “So there’s a lot of metal and wood that is jagged and sticking out.”

When Johnson fell late Friday night it would have been very dark. There’s not a single light on the pier. The closest one is in the parking lot.

Another factor that night was the weather. There had been strong storms during the day that Friday and when Johnson was out fishing later that night the winds were still gusting more than 20 knots. Those gust created rough conditions in the surf around the pier.

NO RAILING ON PIER

But none of that may have come into play if there was something on the pier that’s on most piers… a railing.

Fisherman Jason Davis showed us how easy it would be to fall over the edge. “Your rod goes in the holder over there and you reach over to get it. It’s very easy to go over.”

The lack of a railing kept Davis from bringing his young sons with him to fish the pier.

“Now that I’ve been out here I’d be a little more cautious about bringing them out here because there are a lot of places to tip over the side,” Davis said.

STATE PARKS RESPOND

“The reason why there’s no railings on the pier is at the request of local fishermen. They like to use this pier with net casting with crab traps and they found that a railing would be obtrusive to the type of activities they want to use the pier for.”

Stephen McNair with the Alabama Historic Commission told FOX10 News after what happened this weekend they’re discussing what could be done to make the pier safer.   “I think whenever you have a tragedy such as this you need to reevaluate anything we can do now to prevent this type of accident in the future,” McNair said.

McNair told us if the state decides to add railing it would have to wait until the next year’s budget. In the meantime, the pier will stay open with just a couple of signs urging folks to be cautious.

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