NEW YORK (AP) — A tugboat crashed into a barge on the Hudson River north of New York City early Saturday, killing one crew member and leaving two missing and presumed dead.
The 90-foot tugboat named Specialist hit a barge around 5:20 a.m. near where the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects two counties north of New York City, is being built, police said. The tugboat sank, spilling about 5,000 gallons of fuel into the water, authorities said.
Several agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, searched for the missing crew members much of the day Saturday. The Coast Guard called off its search at sunset and said it would remain suspended “pending further developments.” Other agencies are expected to resume the search Sunday morning.
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino identified the dead crewman as Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, NewJersey. Attempts to reach his family were not immediately successful. The missing crewmen have yet to be identified.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had spoken to the family of one of the missing crew members on Saturday.
“This is a 29-year-old who had his whole life ahead of him. He was supposed to come home but was working a few more days because the company asked him to, and now it’s doubtful he’ll come home at all,” Cuomo said. “That puts everything in perspective. … Sometimes people go to work and they don’t come home.”
State Police divers began searching in the water about 12 hours after the crash. Earlier in the day, they used sonar equipment to determine the exact location of the sunken tug and said they needed to assess whether it was safe to send divers into the river to search for the other two victims. Cuomo said officials believed the tugboat was wedged on the river bottom near the mid-span of the bridge, where it crashed.
While not specifically saying the other two had died, Cuomo said: “You have three people who left for work and who aren’t going to come home.”
Authorities said three tugboats were pushing a barge from Albany to Jersey City, New Jersey, when one of the three — situated on the right side as it headed south — hit a stationary barge that was part of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project.
A tugboat on the left side of the barge that was being pushed, as well as one that was pushing the barge from the rear, were not involved in the accident.
Cuomo said in a statement that 21 workers were on the bridge construction barge that was hit, but none of them was injured. He said it appeared the workers realized the barge was about to be struck and braced for impact. He added the construction barge was illuminated at the time of the pre-dawn collision.
The accident occurred near the center of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Specialist sank in about 40 feet of water within minutes, authorities said. The water temperature in the area was about 40 degrees, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Cuomo said a team from the state Department of Environmental Conservation was on site with a private contractor and were deploying booms to contain the leaking diesel fuel. He said he did not expect any “long-term damage” as a result of the spill.
James Mercante, an attorney for the owner of Specialist, said the crew was licensed, competent and experienced personnel.
“It’s a shocking, horrific marine tragedy,” Mercante said. “Right now the company is more concerned with the families of the crew and mourning.”
A spokeswoman for Tappan Zee Constructors, a consortium of companies building the new bridge, said the company is cooperating in the investigation.
The crash occurred near the scene of a 2013 boat crash that killed a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man.
That incident, which killed Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, both 30, also involved a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge. Victims’ families have filed lawsuits against several construction companies in that crash. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted, although additional lighting was installed after the crash.
The new bridge is to replace an adjacent aging span that now connects Westchester and Rockland counties. Construction on the $3.9 billion project began in October 2013 and is expected to be completed by 2018.
This story has been corrected to say 21 people were on the barge that was struck, according to a press release from Gov. Cuomo.
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