Search for Three Missing Towboat Crewmembers Suspended

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Published Jan 27, 2020 9:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for three crewmembers who went missing after the collision of two towboats on the Mississippi River on Sunday. 

At about 0540 hours on Sunday morning, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report that the towing vessel RC Creppel and the towing vessel Cooperative Spirit had collided on the Mississippi near mile marker 123, near Luling, Louisiana. 

According to initial accounts, the Cooperative Spirit was transiting upbound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area, collided with several barges and then struck the towing vessel RC Creppel. The collision caused the RC Creppel to sink and barges to break away. 

After the sinking, one member of the RC Creppel's crew was rescued from the water by a good samaritan vessel. Three others went missing, and Coast Guard crews searched over 835 nm for nearly 70 hours in an attempt to locate them. The search was unsuccessful. 

At the time of the collision, the RC Creppel was pushing two barges carrying sulfuric acid. One of these barges was damaged in the incident and reportedly released an unknown amount of vapor into the air. Environmental monitoring is ongoing in the area surrounding the incident, and the air in the immediate vicinity of the affected barge has now been cleared of any traces of sulfuric acid, according to the USCG.

The Mississippi River reopened to vessel traffic at mile markers 121-123 at 2130 hours Sunday night. This area is still subject to safety restrictions.

Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the incident.