Tug capsizes and sinks in intense La. storm, two crewmembers rescued by Coast Guard

Two men were rescued as their tugboat took on water during a storm on Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. The tug later capsized and sank.

The captain of the 48-foot Capt. Mack radioed the U.S. Coast Guard at 1730 on June 24 and reported that the vessel was taking on water over the port side, one mile northeast of Lakefront Airport in New Orleans. The tug, owned by Bertucci Contracting Corp. of Jefferson, La., was pushing an empty rock barge from Metairie to Slidell when the incident occurred.

The Coast Guard dispatched a 41-foot rescue boat with a five-man crew from Station New Orleans. When the boat arrived on the scene the tug was listing, said Paul Barnard, the Coast Guard’s search and rescue coordinator. Seas were 7 feet with 30-knot winds, the Coast Guard reported.

“The two men were still on the vessel when our utility boat arrived,” Barnard said. “The men were removed and the tug subsequently capsized and then sank.”

As Capt. Mack foundered, the barge it was pushing broke away and began to drift. The Coast Guard issued a request to mariners in the area for assistance and quickly received it.

“Another tug, Miss Laurie, responded and took the barge in tow until the owners (Bertucci Contracting) could relieve them of it,” Barnard said.

The 600-hp Capt. Mack was built in 1971 by Rayco Shipbuilders and Repairers of Bourg, La. It was not holed and experienced no mechanical problems prior to the Lake Pontchartrain incident, according to Bertucci contract manager Steve Zelenka.

“It was just water coming over the transom,” he said. “They were traveling west to east and the storm caught them from behind. (The intensity) was unexpected.”

The tug sank in about 15 feet of water. It was salvaged by Coral Marine Services of Morgan City, La., and taken to dry dock. Zelenka would not estimate the cost of the damage, but said the vessel “needs a complete rebuild.”

The Coast Guard deployed a boom around Capt. Mack after the sinking, but reported minimal loss of fuel.

“There was nothing more than a light sheen at any time,” Barnard said.

No injuries were reported. Jaclyn Young, public affairs specialist third class at Coast Guard Station New Orleans, said the incident is under investigation.

Rich Miller

By Professional Mariner Staff