Sinking towboat’s pilot goes alongside other boat to evacuate crew

Four crewmembers were rescued off a towboat before it sank with 10,000 gallons of diesel on board in the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

On July 1, Jim Marko began taking on water into at least one of the voids, but the leak was too large for the crew to keep up with and the vessel took a severe list to starboard, said Coast Guard Warrant Officer Jay Gagnon, one of the investigators.

The crew radioed for help and the pilot was able to bring the vessel alongside the towboat Miranda Page so the crew could abandon their ship before it went under. The crew transferred to another towboat, John F. Walker, which took them to shore.

“The cause of the leak is still under investigation, and we will be able to get more information as the vessel is raised,” Gagnon said. “We do have some leads but we’ll know more once we can inspect the vessel.”

The 70-foot, 1,350-hp Jim Marko, operated by Osage Marine Inc., rested on the river bottom about a third of a mile north of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge near the Illinois side, around mile marker 182.

At the time of the incident, the river level was 28 feet to 29 feet, and salvage operations had to wait until the river dropped to about the 15 feet level, according to salvage operator Okie Moore Diving and Salvage.

The vessel was resting on its starboard side on the bottom, according to 3-D mapping scans.

There is no evidence that the fuel leaked. “We think 10,000 gallons of diesel would have been more visible if it had leaked, but there was some burping from the vessel until it settled on the bottom,” Gagnon said.

Osage Marine did not return calls for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff