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.
New York State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and fire and police agencies from Westchester and Rockland counties were searching for the missing crew members. The names of the three crew members were not immediately released.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said State Police divers were using sonar equipment to determine the exact location of the sunken tug and still assessing whether it was safe to send divers into the river to search for the other two victims. He said the exact location of the tugboat on the river bottom was not yet known.
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 13 workers were on the bridge construction barge that was hit, but no one 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.
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 aware of the crash and 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.