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February 12, 2010

Tugboat sinking closes Houston Ship Channel

The Houston Ship Channel remained closed this morning from the Sims Bayou turning basin to the Vopak facility as efforts continued to raise and remove a sunken Kinder Morgan tugboat.

Divers from TNT Marine, a salvage company hired to dive on the vessel, yesterday recovered a body believed to be that of a missing crew member .

The command center at Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston received a call at 10:30 p.m.Wednesday, stating that the vessel J.R. Nichols, a 56-foot tug boat, had sunk in the shipping channel near the Sims Bayou turning basin with five people onboard.

Sector Houston-Galveston responded with two 25-foot Response Boats-Small from Coast Guard Station Houston, as well as an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Houston.

Rescue crews were able to recover four persons from the sunken vessel. They were transported to a local hospital by EMS. The four displayed symptoms of hypothermia.

A salvage plan for the vessel has been filed and the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

The blog of one local personal injury lawyer noted that "preliminary reports indicate that [the tugboat] may have been caught in the wake of a larger vessel."


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