Coast Guard suspends search for missing crew member

Coast Guard suspends search for missing crew member

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Coast Guard on Tuesday suspended its search for a person who went into the water after a towing vessel capsized at mile marker 55 on the lower Mississippi River north of Point A La Hache.

Coast Guard crews searched approximately 158 square-nautical miles for approximately 18 hours but were unable to find the missing person.

Involved in the search were:

  • Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew
  • Coast Guard Station Venice 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew
  • Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Department marine asset crew
  • Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District boatcrew
  • Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

"The decision to suspend a search is never easy," said Cmdr. Michael Wolfe, a search and rescue mission coordinator at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. "We saturated the search area with search crews but, unfortunately, were unable to locate the missing person.”

The towing vessel was located by Turn Services outside the ship channel at mile marker 57, and the Mississippi River has been re-opened to all traffic with restrictions requiring minimum safe speed and wide berth from mile markers 56 to 58.

It was the 54th incident on the rapidly moving river since January.

The search had been ongoing since Monday at 8 p.m. On a very treacherous river that’s seen dozens of mishaps in the past two months, this is the third tug to go down in two weeks - but the first with a missing crew member.

“My prayers go out to this family. We’re brothers on the river. Seeing each other it’s emotionally hard to watch a boat go down,” said E. Michael Bopp, president of the Crescent River Port Pilots Association.

A Coast Guard helicopter and search boat have been spotted on the river near Myrtle Grove looking for a crew member of the towboat Seattle Slew, which is owned by Turnservices Inc. out of New Orleans. It went down near mile marker 55 north of Point A La Hache. Two crew members were recovered, but one remains missing.

Veteran river pilots say the Mississippi is nothing to be taken lightly right now.

“Being on the river 40 years, I’ve seen everything. The current and Mother Nature are so hard to fight,”said Bopp.

A 3-mile section of the river between mile marker 55 and 58 was closed much of the day, backing up dozens of ships. But it re-opened around 1 p.m, as the search resumed.

The Coast Guard has not released a cause for the vessel sinking. They also say they know the name of the missing crew member, but are not releasing it out of respect for his family.

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