Sunken towboat raised from Kanawha River

By Rusty Marks, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.

Apr. 22–BANCROFT, W.Va. — Salvage crews succeeded in raising a towboat this morning that had been on the bottom of the Kanawha River since early Monday.

A large barge armed with two cranes began lifting the hulk of the towboat Misty Dawn from the river at about 8:30 a.m. The boat sank at about 2 a.m. Monday just downriver from Poca, after beaching a barge that started taking on water Sunday evening.

But salvage crews aren’t sure how long it will take to raise the barge, which had a large crane on it.

“We’re still planning that one,” said John Romans, incident commander for Pittsburgh-based River Salvage Co. River Salvage and divers based out of New Orleans worked on raising the Misty Dawn.

“I’m not sure of the size or the tonnage, but it’s a very large crane,” Romans said. “We’re not sure if we can pick it up in one piece or we’re going to have to cut it into sections.”

Romans said they raised the Misty Dawn slowly to avoid causing damage to the vessel that would impede investigators looking for the cause of the sinking. The boat went down quickly, trapping Greg Smith of Cattletsburg, Ky., inside. Smith drowned, but the other member of the boat’s two-man crew was able to swim to shore.

Though the boat was completely out of the water by about 9:15 a.m., it was about 10 a.m. before enough water had been pumped out of the Misty Dawn to consider the boat fully raised. The boat sank in the middle of the Kanawha River’s navigation channel, closing the river to commercial traffic since early Monday.

With the Misty Dawn safely pulled out of the channel, Romans said it should be possible to reopen the river. “We’re good to go,” he said.

But U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Geoffrey Lockamy said he was not sure how long it will be before government officials can reopen the river. The Coast Guard has had personnel at the site of the sinking since shortly after the Misty Dawn went down.

The crew of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat was conducting a survey of the river bottom this morning, not long after crews pulled the hulk of the Misty Dawn from the water.

Romans said the wreck of the barge and crane should not seriously impede commercial river traffic because the barge went down outside the navigation channel. He guessed it would take about a week to salvage the barge.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.

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