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NTSB cites open hatches, 'ongoing watertight issues' in fatal towboat sinking

Feb 15, 2019 11:28 AM

Both crewmen aboard Ricky Robinson died when the vessel sank near Memphis, Tenn.

Photos of Ricky Robinson post-salvage show both aft voids missing hatch covers, left, with a yellow square highlighting where a submersible pump was found, and the open starboard engine room door, right, tied off to stairs.

Courtesy NTSB

Photos of Ricky Robinson post-salvage show both aft voids missing hatch covers, left, with a yellow square highlighting where a submersible pump was found, and the open starboard engine room door, right, tied off to stairs.

The following is marine accident brief from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

(WASHINGTON) — On Dec. 8, 2017, about 1126 local time, the towboat Ricky Robinson capsized and sank on the Lower Mississippi River at mile 732.8 near Memphis, Tenn., with two crewmembers on board, after the vessel began taking on water. The pilot made a distress call just before the sinking; neither crewmember was found during the search and rescue operations that followed. When the vessel was recovered nine days later, the deck hand’s body was discovered inside the wreckage; the pilot is presumed to be dead. Approximately 200 gallons of diesel oil were released into the river. Damage to Ricky Robinson was estimated at $1.5 million.

Probable cause

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the sinking of the towing vessel Ricky Robinson was the pilot’s decision to proceed with unsecured deck hatches at a speed that resulted in water on deck and flooding of the aft voids. Contributing to the sinking was the company’s inadequate oversight to ensure that crews kept hatches closed while the vessel was under way and that ongoing watertight issues with the voids were addressed.

Click here for the complete report.

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