Three people are feared to have died after two vessels collided on the Mississippi River near Luling, Louisiana, on Sunday, January 26.
Watchstanders at US Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 05:37 local time on Sunday that the towing vessels RC Creppel and Cooperative Spirit had collided and that four crewmembers on the former have gone missing.
Cooperative Spirit was reportedly transiting upbound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area and allided with barges before colliding with RC Creppel. The collision caused RC Creppel to sink and some nearby barges to break away.
The coast guard launched a Response Boat-Small boat crew from Coast Guard Sector New Orleans and an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter air crew from Air Station New Orleans.
One of the four crewmembers who had ended up in the water was later rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel.
The subsequent search for the other three crewmembers covered an area of more than 835 nautical miles. However, no trace of the missing individuals had been found by 20:00 of Monday, January 27, when the coast guard ordered the suspension of the search.
RC Creppel had been pushing two barges carrying sulphuric acid. One of these barges was damaged in the incident and reportedly released an unknown amount of vapour into the air.
The coast guard has confirmed that the source of the release is secured and that a temporary safety zone had been put in place, thus closing off traffic to all vessels in that area for approximately 24 hours.
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 sulphuric acid, reducing the threat of immediate health issues or concerns to the surrounding communities.
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 in the latter’s investigation into the cause of the incident.
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