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NTSB cites hull neglect in sinking of Kentucky towboat

Feb 21, 2020 08:56 AM

A good Samaritan vessel rescues the two crewmen aboard Tom Bussler

NTSB/Jeff L. Yates photo

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

(WASHINGTON) — On Jan. 7, 2019, about 2030 local time, the towing vessel Tom Bussler was transiting in light boat condition (no tow) upbound on the Tennessee River at mile 15 near Calvert City, Ky., when the vessel began flooding and quickly sank in the channel. Both crewmembers aboard abandoned the vessel into the river and were rescued by a good Samaritan vessel. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the vessel was estimated at $297,368, and it was scrapped.

Probable cause

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the flooding and sinking of the towboat Tom Bussler was the company’s lack of an effective hull maintenance and repair program, which resulted in flooding into the bow voids and engine room through fractures in the hull.

Analysis excerpt

Although the crew knew about and reported several hull leaks to management in the months prior to the accident, the lack of hull repair evidence and daily pumping of the towboat’s voids indicated that management did not address issues with the vessel’s watertight integrity in a timely manner. The company’s safety management system (SMS) required senior management to evaluate and determine if reported problems were critical or non-critical and approve and coordinate any maintenance that impaired a vessel’s maneuverability. The lack of action by the operating company to repair these several known hull deficiencies in a timely manner, once identified by the vessel’s crew, was counter to the guidance outlined in their SMS, and was directly related to the flooding.

Click here to read the complete report.

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