Barge crashes into pleasure boat that had overtaken it and stalled

Four people leapt from a disabled pleasure boat moments before it was struck by a barge in the Intracoastal Waterway near Galveston, Texas.

The boaters jumped into the waterway and were picked up by another boater before a barge pushed by the 1,710-hp towboat Dixie Courage collided with the 15-foot Mako powerboat, according to Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the towboat.

Dixie Courage and its tow were overtaken by a pleasure craft in a narrow channel section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway,” Matt Woodruff, Kirby’s director of government affairs, said in an email. “The pleasure craft then stalled in front of the tow.”

Only one of the passengers was wearing a life jacket, the U.S. Coast Guard said. There were no injuries and no environmental damage.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, according to Andrew Kendrick, public affairs specialist first class for the Coast Guard’s Houston detachment.

The accident occurred at about 1245 on June 22 as Dixie Courage traveled in the waterway between Bolivar Peninsula and Goat Island near mile marker 339. The tow pushed two barges in a side-by-side configuration. Each was loaded with 25,000 barrels of alkylate.

Kendrick would not say whether Dixie Courage was traveling in a barge lane when the accident occurred, citing the ongoing investigation. He also wouldn’t say if the towboat attempted to avoid the collision.

Kendrick said the pleasure boat’s engine “died in the middle of the channel in front of the Dixie Courage and barges.”

The pleasure boat became stuck under one of the barges after being hit and later sank. The tug and barges were not damaged.

“The lead barge of the tow struck the empty pleasure vessel after its occupants were recovered,” said Woodruff, the Kirby spokesman.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoy in the vicinity of the crash site recorded winds between 8 and 13 mph around the time of the accident. Kendrick wouldn’t say if weather was considered a factor in the collision.

Dixie Courage was built in 1969 by Main Iron Works in Houma, La. The vessel is 71 feet long with a hull breadth of 24 feet. Its home port is Wilmington, Del.

The Coast Guard closed the waterway for about five hours following the accident, delaying six eastbound vessels and three westbound vessels, Kendrick said.

“The Intracoastal was closed due to unknown location of the submerged pleasure craft,” he said. “It was reopened after notification that the boat was dislodged as the barge moved from the bank and a good Samaritan towed the pleasure craft to the pier.”

The waterway was initially was closed from mile marker 319 to 330. Later on, the closure was amended to mile markers 335 to 341. It completely reopened at about 1930.

By Professional Mariner Staff