Two escape sinking harbor tug

A towboat pilot and a deck hand escaped injury by jumping to a nearby barge when their small vessel suddenly sank in the Tennessee River near Calvert City, Ky.

The 51-foot-by-22-foot Janet Leavell sank Jan. 22 at mile 11.5 while en route to assist the larger towboat Elizabeth Lane, which was assembling a 15-barge coal tow.

CWO Clarence “Charlie•bCrLf Rice, investigating officer from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit at Paducah, Ky., said the 1,000-hp vessel went down at approximately 1245. Its two-man crew noticed it listing while headed down from its dock at mile 14.

The twin-screw vessel was running light boat – with no barges – at the time, he said.

The deck hand went to investigate and found water in the hull, Rice said. He started emergency pumps, which failed to keep pace with the intrusion. While the deck hand proceeded with the emergency pumping operation, the pilot raced toward Elizabeth Lane’s tow. Deck hands managed to secure a couple of head lines to the stricken vessel’s bow in an attempt to prevent it from sinking.

While pushing against Elizabeth Lane’s barges, Janet Leavell’s stern became awash, and the engine room flooded, Rice said. The engines failed and the floundering vessel settled to the bottom as the crew scrambled to Lane’s loaded coal barges.

Within two hours of the incident, divers had already sealed fuel-tank vents. A crew from Budwine and Associates, of Destrehan, La., had secured a pollution-containment boom around Janet Leavell’s pilothouse, which remained above water. A marker buoy was placed next to the wreck, which was outside the navigation channel along the left descending shore.

The boat was raised the next day and moved to a local shipyard for assessment of damages. As of mid-February, the Coast Guard had not determined a cause. J

anet Leavell is owned by Wepfer Marine of Memphis, Tenn., which provides fleeting and harbor services for Calvert City Terminal, a high-volume coal transfer facility at mile 14.

By Professional Mariner Staff