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3 Die as Tug, 6 Barges Sink In Ohio River

Crew Member Missing After Incident at Dam

By Dan Nephin
Associated Press
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page A03

INDUSTRY, Pa., Jan. 9 -- A tugboat and six barges sank Sunday after the tug was 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 the hospital. Rescue squads found the swift water 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," he said.

The pilot house of the tugboat Elizabeth M is swept over a spillway of the Montgomery Island Dam on the Ohio River at Industry, Pa. The six barges the tug was pushing also sank in the incident. (Keith Srakocic -- AP)

Two of the rescued crew members were treated and released; information was not available for the third. Industry Fire Chief Thomas Llewellyn said no attempts could be made to reach the missing crew member until the water receded.

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, 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 say they believe three of the barges sank downriver, and the other three barges sank above the dam.

Crews from two other tugs pulled from the water four people 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; they were identified as Toby Zappone, John Thomas and Jacobs Wilds.

The dead crew members were 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 because of recent rains and flooding, said John Anderson, the lockmaster.

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