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3 Dead in Ohio River Tugboat Accident

January 10, 2005|From Associated Press

INDUSTRY, Pa. — A tugboat and three barges sank Sunday after being swept over a dam spillway on the Ohio River by currents made stronger by heavy rains, killing three crew members. One person was missing and believed to be aboard the sunken boat.

Three people were rescued by crews of other tugs and taken to a hospital. Fire crews arriving on the scene determined the swift water was too dangerous to enter, said Chuck Ward, assistant fire chief in Industry.

"The worst thing was, you could see two people in the boat screaming for help" over the rush of the water, Ward said.

Two of the rescued crew members were treated and released. Officials said they would attempt to reach the missing crew member today.

The tug, named the Elizabeth M, was pushing six coal barges north on the river when it went through the lock at the Montgomery Island Dam about 2:30 a.m. After it emerged on the other side, strong currents pushed the boat back against the dam, Industry Fire Chief Thomas Llewellyn said.

Officials believe the barges were then pushed by the currents into the tug, forcing it through a gate in the dam, said Richard Lockwood, chief of operations of the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The tug sank in the churning water below the dam. Officials believe three of the barges sank downriver, while the other three barges sank above the dam.

Crews from two other tugs pulled four people from the water who had been aboard the barges and two from the boat, Llewellyn said. The two pulled from the boat and one pulled from a barge survived.

The deceased crew members were identified as Scott Stewart, 36, of Wheeling, W.Va.; Tom Fisher, 25, of Latrobe, Pa.; and Edward Crevda, 22, of West Brownsville, Pa.

The river normally flows at about 3 to 4 mph, but the current was about 10 to 15 mph Sunday, said John Anderson, the lockmaster.

Industry is about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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