Sunken towing vessel found in Mississippi River

The 64′ towing vessel Natalie Jean that sank in the vicinity of mile marker 90.5 on March 12 in the Mississippi River at New Orleans has been located, according to the Corps of Engineers.

“It was located on March 12 but nothing was disclosed because officials didn’t want to interfere with recovery efforts,” a Corps spokesperson said. Creole Chief Inc., New Orleans, owns the Natalie Jean.

The Corps was helping in the search to find the missing boat. Also involved in the search were a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans helicopter aircrew, Coast Guard Station New Orleans response boat-medium boat crew, Coast Guard cutter Barbara Mabrity, New Orleans Harbor Police, Plaquemines Port Authority, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, NOAA and the Corps.

Two of the three crew on board remain missing. The missing mariners are Malon Dawsey and Karl Prince.

The Coast Guard has not said whether the bodies of the missing mariners have been found. The Natalie Jean was pushing a barge, which has been recovered, according to published reports, when it went down in high water conditions. The Coast Guard has not confirmed those reports.

At the Inland Waterways Conference in New Orleans on Tuesday, Major Gen. Richard Keiser, commander, Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division, said, “This is a very high water event. We’re in for a long, wet spring.” He went on to say that conditions on the river in the New Orleans area should get better before getting worse again in early April. The Natalie Jean is not expected to be raised while high water conditions continue on the river, according to published reports. Neither the Corps nor the Coast Guard would confirm.

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, commanding officer, Eighth Coast Guard District, was also at the conference and said the last four months have been difficult for the towing vessel industry as far as accidents are concerned. “We’ve lost eight towboats in the last four months — two by fire and six that sank,” he said.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a report at 9:43 a.m. on March 12 that the towing vessel Natalie Jean had capsized with three people aboard. The 2,000-hp, 70’x28′ good Samaritan vessel Earl Gonsoulin, owned by Lebeouf Bros. Towing, rescued one person, but the other two remain missing. The name of the mariner who was rescued has not been released.

There was an estimated 600 gals. of fuel on board the Natalie Jean. The Coast Guard has not said whether any of the fuel is in the water. Navigation restrictions in the search area were lifted the day after the accident. The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

About the author

Ken Hocke

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.

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