Inland Waterways – Tug and Barge Accidents – Ohio River Accidents

One of the nation’s most important waterways, the Ohio River starts where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River meet, very close to downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It ends 981 miles downstream in Cairo, Illinois, at the Mississippi River. Six states either have the river flowing through them or are bordered by it, and more than 25 million people live in its basin.

The Ohio River has been significant since before Europeans arrived in the area, and was the southern border of the Northwest Territory in the 1600s and 1700s. It also divided British settlements and American Indian communities. Settlers often moved westward using the river and established themselves permanently along its banks when the United States was formed. An important commercial route for farmers throughout the 1800s, the Ohio continued to be the primary artery for coal, grain, and other bulk items even as highways, railroads, and air travel became established.

This waterway also has its history of tug and barge accidents. Here is a look at some recent and notable ones throughout the years.

Waterway Accidents on the Ohio River: Tugs and Barges

April 2017 – The Mike A. Nadicksbernd, a towboat owned by American Commercial Barge Lines, allided with Lock and Dam 52. About 1.5 miles from Brookport, Illinois, the vessel was pinned to the lock wall. It was pushing ten barges at the time, according to reports. High winds were also reported around the time of the accident, and the waterway was closed for several miles while the Coast Guard planned to remove fuel from the vessel.

March 2017 – The Austin C. Settoon lost a barge that collided with the Racine Locks and Dam, while the vessel and its remaining barges were stacked against the dam following the accident. The crew was safely evacuated, while the U.S. Coast Guard shut down the river until the vessel could be moved.

September 2014 – A barge was hit by a pleasure boat between Newport and Cincinnati, which crossed in front of it, according to officials. Two employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were killed in the accident.

January 2005 – A towboat, the Elizabeth M, tumbled through the Montgomery Dam and sank. Three crew members died, and another was missing. As the vessel was pushing upriver, with a load of six coal barges, the river’s current pushed them toward the dam. The pilot had pulled free of the barges, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but the momentum caused the towboat to be drawn over the dam. There were three survivors. Heavy rain for several days had caused the conditions leading to the accident.

March 2000 – A crane on a floating barge collapsed near Goshen, Kentucky, killing a man. The crane snapped from its base and trapped the individual underwater. At the time of the accident, the crane operators were lifting a dock so that Styrofoam could be placed underneath it. The man had been on the job for just two days.

May 1967 – Eight barges sank after a series of them broke free from a mooring and went down the Markland Dam in Kentucky. Some of the dam’s gates were obstructed by the debris, affecting water levels. Commercial activities and fishing were affected. The dam was out of commission for two weeks while crews worked to cut the barges up, which were mangled around components of the dam.

Tugs and barges have sustained major damage on the Ohio River during the past several decades. Several workers have been injured or killed as well. Safety and water conditions have been significant factors. The Jones Act oversees the operation of U.S.-owned vessels on navigable waterways. It also provisions damages for those injured and to the families and dependents of victims killed in accidents aboard or near vessels, especially when a ship owner, captain, or crew member is found liable.

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