Five crew members escaped unharmed when a Marquette Transportation Company towboat sank on the Mississippi River near Laplace, La., Thursday afternoon, according to the Coast Guard.

At about 3 p.m. Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector New Orleans received a report that the 66’x26’, 1,250-hp St. Rita sank on the right descending bank of the river. All five crew members were picked up by the towing vessel Rod C. and brought to shore, with no injuries reported, Coast Guard officials said.

“We are working with our federal, state and local partners and the responsible party to oversee the salvage and clean-up operations with the goal of minimizing the impact to the Marine Transportation System and the environment,” said Cmdr. Zachary Ford, Chief of the Sector New Orleans Response Department, in a statement about the incident..

There was no effect on other vessel movements and the river remained open. The Coast Guard is investigating the sinking, which happened at a time of fast high water on the Mississippi. The gage downriver at Carrollton in New Orleans, at mile 102.8, was steady at 16.65’ at the time, just below the 17’ flood stage, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

On the same day, a Kirby Inland Marine towboat pushing barges allided with other barges tied up at a cleaning facility at the Plaquemine Point Shipyard, Sunshine, La.. An eyewitness video broadcast by television station WBRZ showed the tow coming downriver in fast water before banging into the empty tank barges.

The St. Rita was carrying an estimated 13,000 gals. of diesel fuel. A Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was sent on an overflight of the sunken vessel, and the air crew reported a visible sheen from mile marker 132 to mile marker 117.

A Coast Guard incident management team was deployed and conducted a visual shoreline assessment with representatives from Marquette Transportation. They confirmed there was a “silvery, rainbow colored non recoverable sheen on the river,” according to the Coast Guard statement.


Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.