Court exonerates tugboat captain in fatal barge explosion

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(CHICAGO) — A federal appeals court has exonerated a tugboat captain and Egan Marine Corp. for a January 2005 explosion on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that killed a deck hand.

In the ruling handed down Monday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said a previous judgment of no liability against the company precluded any finding of criminal liability in the incident that resulted in the death of Alexander Oliva. It ordered that the trial court enter judgments of acquittal for both Egan Marine and the tugboat captain, Dennis Michael Egan, who in 2015 was sentenced to six months in prison for manslaughter involving misconduct or neglect of ship officers.

At the trial, prosecutors argued that Egan had instructed Oliva to use a propane torch to heat a cargo pump. At the same time, fumes were being vented from the cargo hold of fuel barge EMC-423. The torch ignited the fumes and the barge erupted in a fireball, killing Oliva. 

Click here to read a previous story in Professional Mariner about the case.

Click here to read Monday's court ruling.

By Professional Mariner Staff