Louisiana tankerman, 32, dies after falling from barge that was tied up at refinery

A tankerman died after a nighttime fall into the Mississippi River from a barge secured at an oil refinery’s docking area in southern Louisiana.
Thirty-two-year-old Jeffrey Dukes, a crewmember on the towboat Walter L. Gibbs, was pronounced dead on the scene in Garyville after his May 14 fall, according to the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The towboat R.D. Quebodeaux was nearby and its crew recovered Duke from the water, sheriff’s spokesman Dane Clement said. Both towboats are owned and operated by Florida Marine Transporters of Mandeville, La. Dukes was a resident of Hammond, La.
“The fall was from the commercial barge GBL 1423B, which was secured in a fleet at the time,” said Scott Camp, Florida Marine Transporters’ counsel. “The barge wasn’t attached to the M/V Walter Gibbs, and it wasn’t in tow. It was a third party’s barge that was already parked in a fleet.” The barge is owned by Golding Barge Line of Vicksburg, Miss.

Dukes’ supervisor heard a man-overboard siren after crew on the nearby vessel spotted the victim in the water, according to the sheriff’s office. Crewmembers of R.D. Quebodeaux rescued Dukes and began CPR until local emergency-medical workers arrived at the Garyville dock. The sheriff’s office reached the area at 2054 hours. When Dukes couldn’t be revived, the parish coroner declared him dead. No one on Walter L. Gibbs had seen him fall, according to the sheriff’s office.

Dukes’ father, Hammond attorney James Dukes, said he was told his son was tying up barges that night at a dock next to the Marathon Oil refinery. “He loved working on the river for Florida Marine and was getting his licenses and papers in order, hoping to become a captain,” James Dukes said in June. 

The Coast Guard wasn’t on the scene that night. In June, Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally in New Orleans said he was unable to provide details. The agency is investigating. 

Marathon’s Garyville plant, with a capacity of 522,000 barrels per day, has several docking areas for receiving and shipping crude and products. The refinery is Louisiana’s biggest and ranks third largest in the nation.

Walter L. Gibbs, delivered in 2012, and R.D. Quebodeaux, built in 2007, are both 90 feet long and weigh 260 gross tons each. Both vessels were constructed by Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Fla. Eastern delivered its 60th towboat to Florida Marine in April and is contracted to build three more for the company. 

By Professional Mariner Staff