Illinois River Accidents

The Illinois River is a major navigational waterway and main tributary of the Mississippi River. It begins where the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers converge and flows more than 270 miles through Illinois to the Mississippi River, being joined by various tributaries along the route. The river also connects the Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Water flow is controlled by eight locks or dams in place.

The waterway passes through many towns, and there are various ports and marinas along the route including in Seneca, Marseilles, Morris, Ottawa, and Pekin, among others. Tug and barge companies are located along the way, providing transportation for a variety of materials including sand and stone.

Barge Safety

Barges and tug boats can be dangerous places to work. Heavy machinery must be operated to load and unload products. Barges have to be properly secured, and the tugs need to be in good mechanical condition. The company is responsible for ensuring the safety of employees on vessels. Equipment has to be inspected and maintained. Employees must be trained in safety procedures so that they safely perform their work tasks. Personal protective equipment should be used whenever possible.

Some of the most common causes of injuries include:

  • Slip and fall accidents on decks
  • Drowning
  • Fires and explosions
  • Cargo accidents
  • Dock mishaps
  • Collisions with other vessels or objects

Visibility may play a role in some accidents. Proper lighting is needed to prevent accidents. Communication with harbor masters is essential for safe navigation. If an accident occurs, it must be reported, and immediate medical care must be rendered. Companies should have a safety plan in place that provides employees with details of what to do should an emergency situation arise.

Tug and Barge Accidents

  • In 2013, a towing vessel pushing a 14-barge tow tried to enter Marseilles Canal, next to Marseilles Dam but was stopped by a strong cross current. Several other towing vessels attempted to assist, but they were not able to gain control over the load. Some of the barges broke away and hit the gates of the dam, sinking. Although no injuries were reported, the accident caused almost $54 million in damages to the dam and barges.
  • In 2009 a barge on barge load and tug collided with a recreational sailboat near Pekin, IL. The local Peoria and East Peoria fire departments, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and nearby boaters helped rescue the boaters. Two were taken to the hospital, and five were unhurt. There were no reported injuries aboard the tug.
  • In 2015 two barges became stuck in the lock and dam near Utica, IL when they broke free from the tug. The high and rapidly flowing waters could have contributed to the accident. In this case, no injuries were reported. However, in some cases when barges break free, they can cause serious harm to others on the river and to tug pilots who must perform dangerous maneuvers to try to regain control.

Companies are required to provide a safe working environment for employees. Tugboats and barges must be properly maintained, and workers should be trained in safety procedures. Deck accidents on barges are some of the most common accidents and can cause serious injuries or fatalities. The Jones Act protects maritime employees from negligent employers and allows them to take legal action in some instances.

If you were seriously injured in a barge or tug accident on the Illinois River, we can help protect your rights and help you get any compensation that you deserve. Contact us today using our online form.

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