Hundreds of Barges Break Free in Multiple Incidents Before Three Hurt in Alabama Explosions

This video shows some of the seven barges that came to rest against the Marseilles Dam in central Illinois after they broke free from the DALE A. HELLER, a 128-foot towing vessel, on April 18. According to a press release from the US Coast Guard, the vessel was on the Illinois River approaching the Marseilles Lock canal when it lost control of its tow due to strong river currents from that day’s heavy rainfall. There were no injuries reported in the accident, but minor damage was reported to the dam and three cargo barges that were partially submerged at the dam.

Just two days later, the US Coast Guard issued another press release stating that watchstanders received a call that between 50 and 80 barges had broken free of their moorings on the Mississippi River. The Coast Guard said a total of 104 barges were impacted by the breakaway, and while most were secured, nine barges full of coal sank 11 barges were still unaccounted for. The Jefferson Barracks Bridge on the south side of St. Louis was struck approximately four times, according to the Coast Guard. Approximately 12 hours later, watchstanders in Mississippi received a call that 30 barges carrying coal and grain broke free of their moorings after the lead barge struck the Vicksburg Railroad Bridge.

While none of these towing accidents resulted in any injuries, three workers sustained injuries when a series of explosions caused two fuel barges to catch fire along the Mobile River on April 25. The cause of the initial explosion was not immediately clear.

Tug and barge accidents can be the result of a vessel owner or operator failing to maintain safe equipment or provide adequate staffing, and injured workers in these cases may be entitled to compensation under claims of negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. We have additional information about the Jones Act  and unseaworthiness available on our website.

In our next post, we will examine a recent story that discussed common deficiencies with towing vessels. If you sustained injuries or your loved one died while working on a tugboat or barge, contact our firm at (800) 392-6072 to schedule a free consultation or fill out the form on this page to have our Jones Act lawyers review your case.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Jones Act attorneys