Mariner seriously injured when barge capsizes in New Bedford

A mariner suffered serious injuries when a barge struck him before capsizing near a terminal in New Bedford, Mass.

The incident occurred at about 1330 on Nov. 26 as crews loaded sand onto barges positioned side by side along a bulkhead. The outermost barge rolled, likely due to an unbalanced load, according to New Bedford Deputy Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr.

“They figured out the outer barge was starting to list, so instead of having two barges roll over, they tried to cut the lines so only one would flip,” Coderre said. “When that happened, the outer barge rolled and it ended up catching the individual.”

Authorities have not identified the victim, who suffered extensive injuries and later lost both legs above the knee.

Tisbury Towing & Transportation of Vineyard Haven, Mass., owns the barges involved in the accident. The vessels were tied up alongside a gravel dock north of Pope’s Island in New Bedford’s working waterfront. The region is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the U.S.

According to Coderre, the victim saw sand shifting on the outermost barge. Lines connecting the two vessels tightened, suggesting the outer barge was about to roll. “At that point they tried to cut the lines, (which is) why the individual was outside the containment wall on the barge,” he said.

Additional details about the incident were not available, including the precise chain of events and the direction the outer barge rolled when it capsized. The names and dimensions of the barges also could not be determined.

The Tisbury Towing tugboat Sirius was positioned nearby when the barge capsized, but the tug did not have a line on the vessel. First responders transferred the injured mariner onto a fireboat and brought him to paramedics waiting at a nearby dock, who transported him to the hospital.

Ralph Packer, the owner of Tisbury Towing & Transportation, said a co-worker who witnessed the incident applied tourniquets to the victim, likely saving his life. Packer called the accident a terrible tragedy but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing U.S. Coast Guard investigation and the possibility of litigation.

“The young man who was hurt lost his legs, and he has shown the greatest spirit anyone has ever seen,” Packer said. “He has taken it very well.”

The Coast Guard confirmed it is investigating but a spokeswoman offered few details about the case. Although the incident occurred at the docks, she said the service is pursuing the case because it involved a credentialed mariner.

By Professional Mariner Staff