One person was killed and two others rescued when a barge sunk Tuesday night in the Fort Pierce Inlet in Florida.
The 100-foot barge was being towed by a 54-foot Gulfstream, on its way from Key Biscayne to Georgia. The barge began taking on water offshore and diverted into the first inlet to come up, which was the highly trafficked Fort Pierce Inlet.
“Unfortunately, they came in at a bad time. It was outgoing tide and about in the middle of the inlet the barge took on so much water that one of the pumps stopped and the barge sunk,” said Amanda Phillips, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Phillips said the vessel had many issues and was “not very seaworthy.”
“It had several holes in it, that’s why it was traveling with the pumps in it as well,” Phillips said.
Officials say three people and a dog were onboard the barge when it took on so much water that it broke in half and sank. One man was pulled under and died. The two other men and the dog were rescued by the Coast Guard. The operator of the boat towing the barge was not injured.
The barge now sits at the bottom of about 40 feet of water, but officials say wreckage could be as close as 10 feet under the surface. Due to safety concerns, the inlet has been closed to boat traffic since the incident.
Federal officials are currently looking into how to remove the barge, and boaters are being diverted to other ocean inlets to the north and south.
An international marine salvage firm has already been hired to work on removing the sunken vessel. Resolve Marine Group of Fort Lauderdale also helped in the recovery of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which capsized sank off the coast of Italy in 2012.
Barge owners have an obligation and a duty under the Jones Act to provide seamen with a safe and secure vessel. Workers who are injured or and the families of those killed on vessels that are unstable or poorly maintained may be entitled to compensation through a Jones Act unseaworthiness claim or under general maritime laws.
“SMSH recently concluded a case wherein a barge capsized in the Delaware River, killing a deckhand,” said maritime lawyer Matthew Shaffer. “These incidents underscore the very dangerous conditions under which seaman must work.”
Schechter, Shaffer & Harris is a maritime law firm that helps seamen and other maritime workers who have been injured on the job in U.S. waters and around the world. We have represented hundreds of seamen in unseaworthiness claims and helped them to recover substantial compensation for their injuries.