USCG: Search suspended for three missing since double towboat collision

Written by Nick Blenkey
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The Coast Guard today suspended its search for three mariners missing after two towing vessels collided on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123, near Luling, La, Sunday (see earlier story).

Response efforts began when watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 5:37 a.m. Sunday that the towing vessel RC Creppel and the towing vessel Cooperative Spirit had collided and that four members of the RC Creppel crew were missing, One was subsequently subsequently recovered by a Good Samaritan vessel..

The Cooperative Spirit was reportedly transiting up bound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area and allided with barges before colliding with the RC Creppel.

The collision caused the RC Creppel to sink and barges to break away.

The RC Creppel was pushing two barges carrying sulfuric acid. One of these barges was damaged in the incident and reportedly released an unknown amount of vapor into the air. The Coast Guard says the source of the release is secured.

Coast Guard crews searched over 835 nautical miles for approximately 67 hours but were unable to find the three missing mariners.

The Coast Guard has not identified the three missing mariners or released any details of the owners of the boats involved.

The extremely limited data available on the Coast Guard’s PSIX (Port State Information Exchange) indicates that the RC Creppel is a 2012 built towboat, measuring 68.9 feet x 30 feet.

Media reports indicate that the owner is Elite Towing, Inc. of New Orleans. However nola.com reports that a man answering the phone for that company said today that he did not want to speak about the incident.

PSIX data shows that the Cooperative Spirit was built back in 1975 and measures 185 ft in length.

Air monitoring is ongoing in the area surrounding the incident. The air in the immediate vicinity of the affected barge has now been cleared of any traces of sulfuric acid, says the Coast Guard. There are no immediate health issues or concerns to the surrounding communities.

The Mississippi River opened last night at 9:30 p.m. to vessel traffic from mile marker 121 to 123. This area is still subject to restrictions put in place by Coast Guard Sector New Orleans’ Vessel Traffic Service.

McKinney Salvage has been contracted to carry out salvage operations of the affected barge. Air monitoring in the area will continue until the salvage operations of the affected barge are complete.

The National Transportation Safety Board has joined the Coast Guard to investigate the cause of the incident.

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