Inland Waterways – Tug and Barge Accidents – Missouri River Accidents
At 2540 miles long, the Missouri River is the longest in the country. The Mississippi River tributary begins in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and flows through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Missouri. It has been the focus of trade, exploration, and transportation since well before the founding of the United States, going back thousands of years. This watershed encompasses a quarter of the nation’s agricultural land and is the transportation backbone for much of the wheat, barley, flax, and oats produced.
The Missouri has been notorious for floods over the years. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has implemented various flood control, irrigation, and navigation projects. The reservoirs created by impounding, dredging, and channelizing the river have only worsened the damage caused by more frequent flooding.
By 2016, the river had seen a resurgence in barge traffic, according to a U.S. News report. Droughts and economic conditions caused many public ports to close in the late 1990s, from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, Mo. Smaller private barge operators still used the river, but major commodities such as grain and scrap metal are being transported in increasing quantities along the river. Flooding continues to impede barge traffic, and there is no lock and dam system to manage free-flowing water resources here.
According to the report, the Missouri River supported 61 million ton-miles in 2012 (between Kansas City and St. Louis), which increased to 103 ton-miles in 2013.
Reported Tug and Barge Accidents
August 2016 – A boat capsized near the Hamburg Mitchell Access Landing. One person was rescued, but another had been suspected to be underneath a tugboat with the capsized vessel. The occupants of the boat were not wearing life preservers.
October 2013 – A man piloting a johnboat was killed when it collided with a tug and barge near St. Charles County, Mo. He was part of a railroad bridge construction crew. The towboat sounded its warning siren, but the boat plowed under the port bow of the rake barge, not altering its course or speed beforehand. According to reports, the man died the next day at a local hospital, and officials suspected he might have had a heart attack while operating the vessel.
April 2011 – The Ike Skelton Bridge was damaged when a loose barge struck it, causing the span to be shut down for several hours. Floating downstream, it ran aground near Lexington, Mo. Reports at the time didn’t identify where the vessel came from.
June 2006 – A recreational boat accident with a barge took the life of a local American Legion Senior baseball team member in Nebraska. At the time, the barge was lit, tied to the west bank of the Missouri River. The accident stunned the community and the owner of Missouri River Marine, a stone and rock hauling company.
Utilized less than other major rivers in the nation, The Missouri has still had its share of accidents. Those injured aboard or near vessels involved in serious incidents can receive protections and compensation under the Jones Act if they can prove an owner or crew member was negligent, leading to unsafe conditions that led to injury or death.