Texas crabber dies after boat collides with barge on Sabine Lake

A 56-year-old man died after his crab boat collided with a tug and barge and sank in the Intracoastal Waterway near Port Arthur, Texas.

The July 7 accident on Sabine Lake claimed the life of John Tran of Bridge City, Texas. Tran was the only passenger on the 18-foot crabbing vessel, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The tugboat Father Seelos was traveling east in a high-traffic section of the lake known as Thousand Foot Cut, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, when the accident occurred. The boat was bound for Lake Charles, La., with five barges, two of which were empty. They were carrying “hazardous materials,” the Coast Guard said.

The captain of Father Seelos notified the Coast Guard of the collision at about 1430.

Investigators are trying to determine how the collision occurred. That includes making sure the tug and barges were traveling in the proper part of the channel, said Wade Thomson, a marine casualty investigator with Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur.

“There is a marked channel and it’s basically for through traffic,” Thomson said. “That’s one of the items still under investigation.”

It’s not clear if the lead barge or another barge in the tow struck Tran’s boat, Thomson said.

A weather buoy at Texas Point, Texas, near where the accident occurred, recorded winds of 12 to 16 mph around the time of the accident. Wave data were not available.

The 2,000-hp Father Seelos is owned by Marquette Transportation, which has offices in Kentucky and Louisiana. The company did not respond to requests for comment on the accident.

The Coast Guard dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Houston and two response boats from Sabine Pass to search for Tran. The Port Arthur Fire Department dive team and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division assisted.

A Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman declined to comment on the search.

Tran’s body was found July 8, near where the collision occurred. His boat, which Thomson said “foundered” after the collision, has since been salvaged.

By Professional Mariner Staff