North Carolina TowBoatUS captain dies in capsize

The body of a TowBoatUS captain was recovered Friday after his 21’ vessel capsized during a night towing job near the mouth of North Carolina’s Pungo River, Coast.

Capt. James W. Cleary Jr., 45, of Belhaven, N.C., was on the mission when watchstanders at the Hobucken Coast Guard station received a call at approximately 1:20 a.m.Thursday reporting the boat had capsized while towing a 47’ recreational boat. Cleary was reported to be wearing coveralls, rubber boots and a lifejacket.

A 45’ Response Boat-Medium crew launched from Hobucken, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from the Elizabeth City, N.C., air station. The Coast Guard crews searched along with North Carolina wildlife and Beaufort County officers. As many as 10 vessels joined as the search resumed at daybreak Friday.

The one man aboard the recreational boat being towed was taken to shore by a North Carolina Wildlife crew to be evaluated by emergency medical services. Cleary’s body was recovered around 4 p.m. Friday in the Pungo River.

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  1. Avatar

    I tow for Sea tow. Night towing is generally tough. A 45 footer especially a sailboat is extremely tough. The absolute worst with a following sea too.

    We are all working alone. Sea Tow requires we wear life jackets while underway or get fined. I wish this guy did and wish this story did not happen fir his sake.

    Capt. Frank No NJ

  2. Avatar

    sounds like he did have a lifejacket on? But who knows what happened when he went into the water? Could have been pinned under the boat or had a seriously injury that prevented him from being able to swim out? I’d like to know some more of the details if possible to know a cause of this catastrophic event to prevent these again. A 21′ towboat late at night in January in a storm, likely powered with a single OB sounds kind of small to be towing a 45′ or 47′ whatever it was, I heard it was a sportfish he was towing orginally

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