Overboard engineer found dead after suffering possible heart attack

A towboat engineer disappeared from a vessel, leading to a multi-agency search of the Monongahela River near Belle Vernon, Pa., before he was found dead in the water.

Jace Edward Sayre, 59, of Chester, W.Va., was the engineer on the 143-foot Capt. Deane Orr when he was reported missing on the afternoon of May 11. A search of the river by police and numerous volunteer fire departments, river rescue teams, ambulance crews and a medical helicopter failed to turn up anything. Later, at about 2100, two boys fishing found the body several miles downriver near the Interstate 70 bridge in Belle Vernon.

Officials conducted an autopsy and toxicology test to determine the cause of death and said they did not suspect foul play.

Gary Broadbent, assistant general counsel and media director for Murray American Transportation, the owner of the vessel, said that the coroner’s office told him that Sayre suffered a fatal heart attack before he fell overboard. The final cause of death was still pending at press time, a representative for the Fayette County coroner office told Professional Mariner.  

“The incident wasn’t related to his job at all,” Broadbent said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Sayre’s family reported to police that although he had worked on boats for 40 years, he couldn’t swim. Police told reporters that a life jacket was found in his sleeping quarters on the towboat.

By Professional Mariner Staff