A Canadian mariner working on a bulk carrier died after falling into the St. Lawrence River just outside the Eisenhower Lock in upstate New York.
Alfred “Freddy” Eshun, 57, of Quebec, fell into the river at about 0020 on Oct. 16 as the inbound Spruceglen approached the occupied lock. Eshun fell from a dock located east of the facility on its north side.
“Eshun was hoisted down the side of Spruceglen to tie the ship off while awaiting another ship already in the lock,” the New York State Police said in a prepared statement. “After being hoisted down to shore, Eshun lost his balance on the dock and fell into the water.”
Spruceglen, a 730-foot Canadian-flagged ship, was sailing from Montreal to Ashtabula, Ohio, at the time. Two employees from the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. located Eshun face down and unresponsive about three minutes after he fell into the river. He was wearing a personal flotation device.
The Seaway employees carried him back to land, and local paramedics performed CPR. The two Seaway workers also required medical attention for possible hypothermia.
An autopsy performed later on Oct. 16 determined Eshun died from “asphyxiation due to freshwater drowning,” according to Trooper Jennifer Fleishman, a spokeswoman for the New York State Police.
Authorities ruled out a medical episode as a potential factor in the incident based on the autopsy results. Interviews with eyewitnesses suggested Eshun just lost his balance, Fleishman said.
State troopers are still investigating and have not determined a formal cause. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment Massena also has participated in the inquiry.
The bulk carrier Spruceglen.
Eshun was an ordinary seaman and crewman on Spruceglen for 14 years. He worked relief on other Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) ships for more than 20 years, the company said.
“Freddy was known as a hard worker, well liked and appreciated by his crewmates, and an all-around good guy,” CSL said in a statement posted to social media. “He will be missed by his wife, his son, his friends and his CSL family.”
Capt. Georges LaRoche is a former master of Spruceglen who sailed with Eshun for many years. He described Eshun as a competent sailor who led by example and served as a teacher for the younger crew.
LaRoche recalled one voyage years ago toward the end of the Seaway shipping season when ballast water froze around the suctions in negative 30-degree cold. The issue threatened the ship’s transit to deliver a load of wheat from the Great Lakes to Wilmington, N.C.
“Alfred and the team crawled into the ballast tanks and smashed the ice by hand with hammers so we could get the ballast back up to shift docks, get the ship laden and get out before the Seaway closed for the season,” LaRoche said.
Nancy Alcalde, a spokeswoman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., which operates the Eisenhower Lock, declined to comment on the incident. She said the agency had no role in the investigation.
Prior to Eshun’s death, the last fatality at a U.S. lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway occurred in 1983 when a Seaway employee died at the Eisenhower Lock.