Captain found dead after falling from tugboat off Rhode Island

The U.S. Coast Guard said it will probably never know how the veteran captain of a tugboat fell overboard to his death off Newport, R.I.

Brendan O’Leary, 48, of Marblehead, Mass., captain of the 91-foot Stephen-Scott, fell off the boat on April 25. There were no witnesses. His body was found floating 10 days later.

Coast Guard spokesman Adam Stanton said the Sector Southeastern New England command center in Woods Hole, Mass., received a call from New York-based Reinauer Transportation, owner of the tugboat, at 1440 reporting that the captain was last seen at 1330. The crew reported that the captain was thought to have fallen overboard about an hour after he was relieved from watch and was not believed to be wearing a life jacket.

The 3,540-hp Stephen-Scott was towing a barge filled with 45,000 barrels of jet fuel from Long Island to Boston. The Coast Guard responded to the scene nine miles offshore between South Kingston and Newport with a motor lifeboat, response boat, the cutter Tiger Shark and a helicopter. The agency suspended the search after covering more than 775 square miles over 27 hours.

At the time the captain went missing, winds were up to 25 mph, waves were cresting up to six feet and the water temperature was 52 degrees.

O’Leary’s body was finally found floating about four miles south of Montauk Point on Long Island just before 1100 on May 5 by a group on a charter fishing boat. The body was recovered by the Coast Guard. The cause of death was not released.

O’Leary was employed for nearly 26 years by Reinauer Transportation, which did not respond to a request for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff