"hand of God stepped in..."

NOBRA Pilot aboard BRIGHT FIELD (BRIGHT STAR)

The then-Mayor of New Orleans called it a "downright Christmas miracle." Recently, Crescent City citizens paused to remember on the 20th anniversary of that miracle.

The marine freighter BRIGHT FIELD slammed into a packed Riverwalk shopping mall in New Orleans December 14, 1997.

Veteran river pilot NOBRA Captain Ted Davisson was at the controls when the 730-foot Chinese ship, filled with 128M pounds of corn, suddenly lost power approaching the Crescent City Connection bridge.  Without notice, the bridge of the ship suddenly went quiet.

"That was a sure fire indication to me that there was an engine issue," Davisson later told reporters. "I asked the captain if there was a problem and I got no response."  The soft-spoken NOBRA pilot remembers praying to God that the ship would not hit the dock.

Miraculously, Davisson was able to avoid a cruise ship along the wharf with hundreds of passengers on board.

The Bright Field eventually ran aground a mere 70 feet short of a floating casino filled with weekend gamblers.

"As luck would have it, or the hand of God stepped in and defied all laws of physics and the ship, instead of continuing to turn to the left, toward the cruise ship, we turned to the right where there was open dock space," Davisson told reporters.

The BRIGHT FIELD later was renamed BRIGHT STAR.

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"Captain Ted Davisson is exemplary of the calibre and qualities of the master mariners making up the membership of the NOBRA Pilots - professional, dedicated and committed to maintaining safety on the Mississippi River," said Captain Steve Hathorn, presiding officer.  "We are very proud of Captain Davisson!"