Coast Guard: Tugboat master asleep when barge hit shoreside homes

Island Chief was towing the unmanned barge near Gig Harbor, Wash.

(SEATTLE) — U.S. Coast Guard members from Sector Puget Sound responded Monday to a barge allision with private docks and homes near Gig Harbor, Wash.

Watch standers at Sector Puget Sound received notification from Pierce County dispatch that an unmanned gravel barge, under tow by the towing vessel Island Chief, struck several privately owned docks and residences.

Initial findings indicate that the master of the towing vessel fell asleep while navigating the vessel.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

The barge held no cargo at the time of the incident. The barge was pulled free by the tug under its own power, neither of which were seriously damaged, and returned to Seattle for further investigation and inspection.

No injuries or pollution have been reported. The investigating officer has determined this to be a serious marine incident, and initial damage estimates could be greater than $250,000. The Coast Guard has confirmed that the vessel operator initiated drug and alcohol testing for all personnel directly involved in the incident.

“Incidents such as this are very concerning,” said Cmdr. Nathan Menefee, chief of prevention at Sector Puget Sound. “Fortunately, nobody was injured, and the towing vessel did not release fuel or oil into the water. Sector Puget Sound will investigate the incident to determine the cause and whether additional actions are necessary to prevent a similar incident in the future.”

– U.S. Coast Guard

Categories: Casualty News