One man dies, two rescued when dredge barge overturns in Delaware

A dredge crewman was killed when a crane barge capsized near Wilmington, Del.

Three workers were thrown into the Christina River. Emmanuel Gatling, 28, was working inside the crane operating station when the barge overturned at about 1815 on Dec. 2. The two other workers were recovered but Gatling never made it to the surface. 

“The victim was in the deckhouse of the barge, operating the derrick, and was apparently trapped when the barge capsized,” Richard Pearsall, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia, said in an email. 

Gatling’s body was found at about 1730 on Dec. 3. It was still inside the crane operating station, said Cynthia Oldham, spokeswoman for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Atlantic City.

Gatling was employed by Norfolk Dredging, which was performing a “maintenance dredging” project in Wilmington Harbor. He was working aboard the 60-foot Derrick Barge #15, which was attached to the 22-foot, 6,100-hp dredge Essex at the time of the accident.

Norfolk Dredging was working on the project as a subcontractor for Cottrell Contracting Corp., Pearsall said. The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the work. 

Details about the type of work being performed just prior to the incident were not available. Oldham said the vessels were not in transit at the time. She referred other questions to Norfolk Dredging. 

Attempts to reach the company, based in Chesapeake, Va., were not successful. Phone messages left for Alan Slifer, Norfolk Dredging’s safety and personnel director, were not returned. 

A Norfolk Dredging employee alerted the Coast Guard shortly after the accident. Two 25-foot small response boats joined local authorities and a tugboat company in an extensive search for Gatling. Search crews abandoned the effort late on Dec. 2 and continued looking for most of the next day. 

There were light winds and freezing rain at the time of the accident and subsequent search, which prevented a Coast Guard helicopter from taking off, Oldham said.

The Coast Guard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Army Corps of Engineers are investigating the incident. 

“Our sincerest condolences go out to Mr. Gatling’s daughter and family. This is an unfortunate tragedy, and we are working diligently to find the cause of the accident,” Coast Guard Sector Atlantic City Commander Capt. Kathy Moore said. 

Gatling, a single father from Newport News, Va., worked for Norfolk Dredging for more than eight years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was studying business at the University of Phoenix. 

“When doing anything, I’m always striving to be the best I can be,” he wrote in the profile. “Working comes very natural to me. I’ve always believed that when you want something, you just have to go after it and give it your all.”

By Professional Mariner Staff