Security guard presumed dead after fall into river from moored tow

A night security guard was believed to have drowned after falling off a towing vessel or barge along the Mississippi River.

The April 7 accident occurred just south of Osceola, Ark. Responders said the man fell from either the moored towboat Joe Ellis or an adjacent barge, at the Mississippi River’s mile marker 782. The incident was reported at about 0200 hours, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally in New Orleans. 

Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Lenar Lane of Blytheville, Ark., was on patrol that night at Mid-River Terminal LLC, where he was employed. 

“It appears that he was walking from the tug to a barge when he fell overboard,” said Mike Godsey, club president of the volunteer Blytheville Rescue Squad. “The tug and two barges were tied up there. His job was to guard the dock and moored boats, which contain expensive equipment.”

While on the job, Lane had a visit from a woman and she reported the accident. According to the woman’s account, Lane had been drinking that night, Godsey said. Weather wasn’t deemed a factor in the incident, he said. 

Mid-River Terminal officials didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

In addition to the Coast Guard and the Blytheville Rescue Squad, the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department and Pafford Emergency Medical Services Inc., based in Hope, Ark., responded to the apparent drowning. County employees searched the river on April 7 and were joined by a dive team from Paducah, Ky. The Coast Guard called off its search on April 8 and is investigating the incident, Lally said.

“We have 46 volunteers in our rescue squad,” Godsey said. “They searched in rotation, using four boats for five or six days in a row, with some rain interruptions. Since then, we’ve continued to look.” 

By late May, Lane’s body still hadn’t been found. “Most of the time drowning victims on this part of the river are eventually located,” Godsey said. “We still hope to find him.” 

Joe Ellis, previously known as Steve Kuhr, was built by Master Marine Inc. in 1975 and is owned by Mid-River Terminal, which is undergoing an expansion.

By Professional Mariner Staff