Ship pilot dies, son injured after gangway collapses in Corpus Christi


An Aransas-Corpus Christi pilot was fatally injured when the gangway he was climbing collapsed at a private terminal near Corpus Christi, Texas.

Capt. Robert L. Adams was reportedly a few steps from boarding the 475-foot tanker BTS Sabina when the gangway gave out, dropping him and his son Robert about 20 feet into La Quinta Channel. First responders struggled to reach the men, and a good Samaritan vessel ultimately pulled them from the water.

Adams’ son, who was accompanying his father on the ship, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

The incident occurred at about 1330 on June 16 at the OxyChem dock in Ingleside, Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating and has not determined the cause, according to Karl Alejandre, spokesman for Air Station Corpus Christi.

Adams was boarding the Singapore-flagged BTS Sabina to shift the tanker from one berth to another at the terminal, said Wes Hoskins, a commissioner for the Port of Corpus Christi. The ship remained tied up at the dock while Adams and his son climbed the gangway.

Authorities have not described how the gangway collapsed. Henry de La Garza, spokesman for the Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilots, said Adams plummeted into the water, “suggesting that he may have been at or near the end of the gangway and close to the deck.”

First responders were initially unable to reach the two men, but eventually gained access by cutting through a chain-link fence.

“It is my understanding that the gangway gave way and Mr. Adams, a seasoned pilot with thousands of boardings, fell in the water and it took a long time to get him out of the water — approximately 45 minutes,” Hoskins said.

Adams, 64, was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Hoskins considered Adams a good friend, and he has requested an investigation to prevent this type of incident from happening again. He said it was very preventable.

“As much as we as an industry drill for rescue, this accident — and especially the location it happened — was pretty much uncharted in getting a response team to get him out and to medical facilities,” Hoskins said.​

OxyChem spokeswoman Susie Geiger said “the ship owned and controlled the gangway,” but she declined to comment further. BTS Sabina is owned by Singapore-based BTS Tankers.

Adams’ son works as a brownwater mariner and was accompanying his father during Father’s Day weekend, de La Garza said.

Adams, the son of a Houston pilot, was the third-most senior Aransas-Corpus Christi pilot. A longtime mariner, his early career included stints working on inland and offshore tugboats. He became a full pilot in 1991 after finishing his two-year apprenticeship.

He also served two terms as presiding officer of the Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilots.

“Capt. Robert Louis Adams exemplified the caliber and quality of master mariners who make up the A-CC Pilots,” said Capt. Jay Rivera, the group’s current presiding officer. “We will sorely miss him and we mourn with his family.”

By Professional Mariner Staff