Tug crewman missing after falling from skiff during crew change

A tugboat crewman was missing and presumed dead after he fell from a skiff while en route to the boat near Anchorage, Alaska.

Peter McNeal, 28, of Wasilla, Alaska, was heading from the small-boat launch at Ship Creek to the anchored Sam B shortly before midnight Oct. 6 when he stood up, fell overboard and was swept away by the swift tidal current, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Shawn Eggert.

“My understanding was that he was transferring from shore to the tug so he could begin work or return to work and get underway with (the crew),” he said. “I believe there was one operator who was driving the skiff, just the two of them on board.”

Crewmembers on the 78-foot Sam B, owned by Brice Inc. of Fairbanks, called the Coast Guard to report that McNeal had fallen into the water. Responders searched 10 square miles of Cook Inlet from the air and sea, but he was not found.

The Coast Guard initially reported that McNeal was not wearing a life jacket, but Eggert said that might not have been the case.

“We’re not sure,” he said. “Some information came out later that it was possible he was wearing one under his jacket or coat. We don’t know if it’s true or not, nor do we know why he would have had a life jacket on under his coat.”

Seas were 1 to 2 feet with 20-knot winds. The air temperature was in the low 40s and the water temperature was 46.

Eggert said the Coast Guard could not determine how far offshore Sam B was anchored or where the skiff was in relation. Calls to Brice Inc. to inquire about the incident were not returned.

By Professional Mariner Staff