Tug deck hand dies after becoming entangled in towing gear

A tugboat deck hand was crushed to death when he became tangled in cables near the vessel’s winch on New Jersey’s Hackensack River.

Ricardo Young, 50, of Queens, N.Y., was killed aboard Turecamo Girls on the morning of Dec. 27, 2009, according to the vessel’s owner, Moran Towing Corp. The 1,950-hp boat was pushing a sewage sludge barge at the time, said Moran Chief Executive Paul Tregurtha.

The New Jersey State Police said the fatality happened at 0200 near Secaucus, N.J. A crewmate found Young’s crushed body at the stern of the boat. The state police did not say whether anyone witnessed the accident.

Young “was working on the tug when another crewmember discovered him on the deck unresponsive,” Moran Towing said in a statement. “Personnel on the Turecamo Girls attempted to provide medical aid to Young, but were not successful in reviving him.”

The deck hand had worked for Moran since 2006, the New Canaan, Conn.-based company said.

Young was a member of Local 333 United Marine Division of the International Longshoremen’s Association, the union said.

William Harrigan, president of Local 333, said the accident happened while Young was adjusting a two-inch Spectra line that leads around a shackle and through an H-bitt toward the capstan winch.

“The line takes up the slack of the push wire,” Harrigan said. “He got tangled in the rope and somehow got dragged into the capstan and was crushed to death.”

Turecamo Girls was operating with a five-person crew, in accordance with the union contract’s crewing provisions, Harrigan said. The union is studying Young’s work hours during that job and whether he had enough rest.

“At two in the morning, was the deck hand not as alert? Probably,” Harrigan said. “So sleep is important.”

Harrigan said it’s worthwhile to station a vessel officer at the stern when a crewmember handles hawser lines.

“As a chief engineer, I would always go out there with the individual when a deck hand is doing something at the stern,” Harrigan said. “You’d like to have an extra set of eyes out there … to make sure he’s OK. That’s why it’s good to have an assistant engineer.”

The 91-foot Turecamo Girls was built in 1965. The exact tow configuration and the name and size of the barge were unavailable. Moran declined to comment further, pending an analysis of the facts of the incident.

The New Jersey State Police said the U.S. Coast Guard is also investigating the death. Coast Guard officials at New York refused to confirm that.

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff