Casualty briefs

Cooperative Spirit involved in Louisiana bridge strike, breakaway
Twenty-nine barges broke free from the towboat Cooperative Spirit after the tow struck a support pillar for the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge in Luling, La.

The incident occurred March 15 at 0130 at mile marker 121.6, less than two miles from where Cooperative Spirit collided with a downbound tow pushed by R.C. Creppel on Jan. 26. Three mariners were killed in the incident, which remains under investigation.

All 29 barges pushed by the 10,500-hp Cooperative Spirit broke free when the lead port barge struck the bridge. Two barges sank in the waterway, and a third initially unaccounted for turned up at a fleeting area in St. Rose, La., Coast Guard spokesman Travis Magee said. The tow was within the navigation channel when it hit the bridge.

No one was injured and there was no pollution. The sunken barges were loaded with corn. The bridge also was not damaged, Magee said.

Cooperative Spirit and other towboats operating near Luling helped retrieve the drifting barges. It’s not clear where the barges sank, although the Coast Guard closed the river between mile markers 115 and 122 after the bridge strike.

R.C. Creppel crewmembers Shawn Pucheu of Bay St. Louis, Miss., Matthew Brigalia of Plaquemine, La., and Lester Naquin of Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., died in the collision with Cooperative Spirit. R.C. Creppel sank soon after impact. A good Samaritan vessel rescued a fourth crewmember from the river.

Archer Daniels Midland subsidiary American River Transportation Co. (ARTCO) operates the 45-year-old Cooperative Spirit. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the bridge strike.

Dye at Golden Ray site tracks potential pollution
Authorities overseeing the Golden Ray salvage conducted a dye test to gauge the effects of contaminants within the St. Simons Sound system. The test was a precursor to more advanced stages of the operation that could inadvertently release oil or fuel into the waterway.

The test, conducted on March 17, involved a greenish dye similar to those used in Boston and Tampa, Fla., during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, according to the unified command established after the ship capsized on Sept. 8. The dye made from fluorescein disodium salt is nontoxic and water-soluble. It will not leave any lasting impacts on the waterway.

“This exercise is meant to give a representation of the path any potential oil discharges may take when Golden Ray is cut into sections during the operation’s next phase,” the unified command said in a prepared statement, referring to the removal of the cargo ship and thousands of vehicles inside.

“The use of this dye is important because it will allow us to see where we need to pre-position oil spill response equipment in the most efficient way,” said Jason Maddox of Gallagher Marine Systems. Gallagher Marine is representing Golden Ray operator Hyundai Glovis.

The 656-foot ship rolled onto its side in St. Simons Sound at about 0200 on Sept. 8 after departing the Port of Brunswick. Nineteen crew and a Brunswick bar pilot on board escaped soon afterward, but four engineering crew were stuck below deck for up to 36 hours in darkness and extreme heat.

Authorities announced last fall that the ship would be disassembled where it came to rest after salvage experts concluded it couldn’t safely be refloated. The cause of the capsizing has not been released.

Nova broke free from its mooring on Feb. 23 and sank in the Columbia River near Umatilla, Ore., after strong winds pushed the vessel about a mile upriver.

Courtesy HME Construction

Columbia River tug sinks after mooring breakaway
A small tugboat used for construction work sank after breaking from its mooring in strong winds that pushed the vessel nearly a mile up the Columbia River.

The 38-foot Nova sank during the night of Feb. 23 near Umatilla on the Oregon side of the river, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. No one was on board at the time.

The agency said the tug sank with about 750 gallons of fuel on board, although it was unclear if any escaped into the river. Divers plugged vents on the vessel and response crews laid boom around it within 18 hours of the sinking.

HME Construction of Vancouver, Wash., owns the tug. According to the company’s website, Nova was built in 1963 and is powered by two 400-hp Detroit Diesel engines. Salvage crews raised it from the river on Feb. 27.

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