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One rescued, three missing after towboats collide in Louisiana

Jan 27, 2020 09:13 AM

Cooperative Spirit strikes barges first, then RC Creppel and its tow, with sulfuric acid released

RC Creppel in an undated photo.

Courtesy Seatrade Maritime

RC Creppel in an undated photo.

The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(NEW ORLEANS) — The Coast Guard suspended its search for three missing mariners Monday after two towing vessels collided on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123, near Luling, La., on Sunday. 

Coast Guard crews searched over 835 nautical miles for approximately 67 hours but were unable to find the three missing mariners.

Air monitoring is ongoing in the area surrounding the incident. The air in the immediate vicinity of the affected barge has now been cleared of any traces of sulfuric acid. There are no immediate health issues or concerns to the surrounding communities. 

The Mississippi River opened Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. to vessel traffic from mile marker 121 to 123. This area is still subject to restrictions put in place by Coast Guard Sector New Orleans’ Vessel Traffic Service.

McKinney Salvage has been contracted to carry out salvage operations of the affected barge. Air monitoring in the area will continue until the salvage operations of the affected barge are complete. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has joined the Coast Guard to investigate the cause of the incident. 

Involved in the response are:

Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans
Coast Guard Station New Orleans
Coast Guard cutter Sailfish
Port of South Louisiana
St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office 
Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife
St. Charles Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Center

INITIAL REPORT

(NEW ORLEANS) — The Coast Guard and local agencies responded after a report of two towing vessels colliding on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123, near Luling, La., on Sunday. 

Watch standers at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 5:37 a.m. that the towing vessel RC Creppel and the towing vessel Cooperative Spirit had collided and that four members of RC Creppel were missing. Cooperative Spirit was reportedly transiting upbound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area and allied with barges before colliding with RC Creppel. The collision caused RC Creppel to sink and barges to break away. 

The Coast Guard launched a 29-foot response boat-small boat crew from Coast Guard Sector New Orleans and an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter air crew from Air Station New Orleans. One of the people in the water was recovered by a good Samaritan. The search for the other three is ongoing. 

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. The source of the release was secured. A safety zone from mile marker 121 to 123 was issued and traffic is closed to vessels in that area. 

“This is a complex response that has a search-and-rescue component, as well as a pollution component that will require planning and coordination to execute," said Capt. Kristi Luttrell, the commanding officer of Sector New Orleans. “We are working alongside our partners at the state and local levels to quickly assess the situation so that we can safely make every effort to find the missing mariners and minimize any further impact to the environment.”

Center of Toxicology and Environmental Health has been contracted for air monitoring. 

The cause of the incident is under investigation. 

Involved in the response are:

Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans
Coast Guard Station New Orleans
Port of South Louisiana
St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office 
St. Charles Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Center

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