Crewmembers rescued after tugboat capsizes on Lake Pontchartrain


Two men were safely removed from a capsized 48-foot tugboat in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. 

The U.S. Coast Guard in New Orleans identified the vessel as M/V Bella. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office rescued the men shortly after the incident on Dec. 30. 

The tug’s owner is Lane Panepinto of K&L Marine Service LLC in Lafitte, La. Panepinto said the vessel was likely holed by a foreign object.

“The boat struck something in the water,” Panepinto said. “They really need to sweep the lake’s floor to remove debris from the oil and gas industry and past hurricanes. We were fortunate that no one was hurt.”

According to the sheriff’s report, when Bella’s captain realized the vessel wasn’t driving properly he descended and found the lower compartment full of water. By the time the captain reached for his life jacket, the boat had rolled onto its side. The captain and his deck hand scrambled to the exposed side.

At 0828 hours, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call from the captain, saying the boat had capsized in the lake between Rigolets Pass and Chef Menteur Pass at latitude 30.1524 north and longitude 89.7729 west.

Sheriff’s Cpl. Michael McCrea boarded a patrol boat at Oak Harbor in Slidell at 0830 and headed out to meet the distress call. He found the tug lying on its side in the water. The two men sitting on top were removed, brought aboard the patrol vessel and taken to Rigolets Marina in Slidell, where medical personnel were waiting. The captain and deck hand were found free of injuries.

“The Coast Guard looked at the capsized vessel the day of the incident, and investigators went to the scene the next day,” Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippetts in New Orleans said in February. On Dec. 30, the Guard’s New Orleans office notified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about a potential discharge of diesel.

“Hazmat service ES&H cleaned up the leaked fuel,” Tippetts said. “The incident remains under Coast Guard investigation.” ES&H is based in Houma, La., and has an office in Belle Chasse. 

The vessel capsized on a cool, dry and breezy morning. Bella was removed from the lake, sheriff’s spokesman Capt. George Bonnett said in January. The vessel was built in 1975.

By Professional Mariner Staff