Tug crew rescues fishermen from water after capsizing their boat

Two fishermen jumped overboard when a tugboat pushing an empty barge struck their recreational vessel in Virginia's James River. The tug crew rescued both of them.

The tug Lisa Moran ran into the fishing boat at about 0300 on July 14, 2011.

There were no injuries. The tugboat was pushing an empty hopper barge. Operated by Moran Towing, the 2,800-hp Lisa Moran is based in Hampton Roads, Va.

The Carolina Skiff fishing boat was moored at the time of the collision, according to Paul Ledoux, chief of investigations at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. Lisa Moran was traveling northbound on the James River at about 9 knots. The current was about 0.6 knots at the time of the incident. Conditions were clear and there was good visibility.

The 24-foot fishing boat was moored in the vicinity of channel markers 121/122 and Appomattox River, according to Lt. Anthony Romero, another Coast Guard investigator. There are two bridges in the area, and the James River does begin to bend more approaching Richmond, said Romero.

The channel width is about 0.1 nautical miles wide where the Coast Guard believes the collision occurred, according to Ledoux. "We are trying to identify whether the fishing vessel was in or out of the channel," Ledoux said.

The fishing boat did have proper running lights. There is no requirement for a recreational vessel to carry a radio, which the fishing boat did not have.

The James River is a popular place for fishermen, who sometimes anchor and do drift fishing. When fishing in the nighttime, fishermen often drop side lights "that can sometimes be misunderstood as an anchor light," said Ledoux. "Sometimes it does create confusion."

In general, "it is not prudent to anchor in the channel," Ledoux said. Even "if the vessel is anchored out of the channel, they still have the responsibility to know the environment, to know what is going on and to stay clear, if they can, of another vessel," he said.

The two men in the fishing vessel saw the tug coming "and they were able to jump overboard before the collision," said Ledoux. The boat overturned and came down the port side of the empty hopper barge.

One crewmember of Lisa Moran put on a life jacket and jumped over the side, carrying a life sling, to rescue the two men, according to Romero. He placed one man in the life sling, and went and got the other man. The remaining crew on Lisa Moran pulled the man in the life sling back to the tug. With the help of a block and tackle, they brought both men on board the tug.

The two men in the fishing vessel were not wearing life jackets, according to Romero. The life jackets were stowed in the vessel. The Coast Guard is still investigating the incident.

By Professional Mariner Staff