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Officials investigating collision between two cargo ships on Welland Canal

Transportation officials say they’re investigating after two cargo ships collided in the Welland Canal in an impact that a bystander said was loud enough to feel in his chest.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation said the “rare” head-on collision happened Saturday afternoon in the key shipping route in the Niagara Region, which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Spokesman Jean Aubry-Morin said the two ships, called the Alanis and Florence Spirit, crashed in a portion of the canal that is often used for passing. He said tens of thousands of ships have passed at the same spot without incident in the last 60 years.

“We have on record no such similar… incidents of vessels on the Welland Canal,” said Aubry-Morin. “To have this unfortunate outcome is extremely rare.”

Aubry-Morin said the ships were able to dock at nearby ports and Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating.

A video of the incident showed the two ships slowly moving towards each other as alarms sounded moments before impact.

The ships made a loud crashing sound on impact, and the collision left large gashes on the hulls of both ships.

Alex Stewart, who took the video, said he was visiting the Welland Canal for the first time to watch ships pass by when he noticed the incident was about to happen and started filming.

“It seemed like they were kind of playing chicken,” said Stewart, who lives in a community north of Guelph, Ont.

He said the crash sounded like someone dropped a large piece of sheet metal from a skyscraper, and was loud enough for him to feel it in his chest.

“It was quite the experience for sure,” said Stewart.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation said the Alanis had “minimum” damage and will likely require minor repairs, whereas the Florence Spirit suffered more serious damage in the crash.

The corporation said there was no environmental impact from the crash and there were minimal delays to traffic after the incident.