Crewman disappears from Ohio River dredge in possible slip-and-fall

A pump hand on an Ohio River dredger was missing and presumed dead after he went overboard in December 2013. It’s not known whether he was wearing a flotation device.

Despite the absence of a body, family members held a memorial service Jan. 11 for Dustin A. Burnham, 27, of Metropolis, Ill. Burnham had eight years’ experience working for Hunter Marine’s Sand & Gravel division.

Burnham was on Dredge IV at about 0245 on Dec. 10 and was crossing to the barge tied to the dredger when he went missing. The barge and dredge were pushed by Patsy M. Built in 1993, Dredge IV is 246 gross tons and 140 feet long. It digs sand and gravel from the river bottom for use in the construction market.

The dredger was working at mile 954 of the Ohio River near Joppa, Ill., near the McCracken/Ballard County line on the Kentucky side of the river, when Burnham was reported missing.

Local officials were called at about 0400 and crews searched miles 952 to 970 near the Olmsted Locks and Dam. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Mine Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident. Although the probe is ongoing, Coast Guard investigators suspect weather was a factor.

“There was snow on the deck of the barge and it appears he did slip off,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Johnson with the Coast Guard’s Paducah (Ky.) Marine Safety Unit.

Donnie Hall, director of safety and risk management for Hunter Marine, declined to comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff