The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search late Saturday for a crewmember who has been missing since a tugboat sank in the Mississippi River on Saturday.

Four other crewmembers were rescued after the UTV Miss Natalie capsized and sank near mile marker 163 about 8 a.m. Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the missing crewmember’s family and friends,” said Coast Guard Cmndr. Kelly Denning. “We appreciate all the support provided by our state, local and industry partners in the search effort, especially the quick response by the Port of South, La. Based on several eye witness accounts, however, we have determined that the missing crewmember was onboard the vessel when it sank. Pending further developments, we have decided to suspend the active search.”

According to reports, the four crewmembers who were able to escape were rescued by a good Samaritan.

The cause of the Mississippi tugboat sinking is under investigation by the Coast Guard. No extreme weather or river conditions were reported in the area at the time of the accident.

Salvage operations on the boat began Sunday morning.

Tugboat Crewmembers May Be Protected by Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal maritime law that gives protections specifically to seamen like tugboat workers, who often face serious risk of injury or death at sea. Not every vessel worker qualifies as a Jones Act seaman.

Crewmembers on tugboats may be considered seamen under the terms of the Jones Act. This status may make them eligible for maintenance and cure payments, negligence claims, and other Jones Act rights.

Not every vessel worker qualifies. To be considered a seaman, you must meet these three criteria:

  1. You are assigned to a vessel at the time of the injury.
  2. The vessel must be in navigation.
  3. You contribute significantly to the vessel’s function.

In addition to protections for injured workers, the Jones Act also provides protections for surviving family members of seamen who are killed while working within 3 nautical miles from shore.

The seaman’s next of kin, which most often is a surviving spouse, children or parents, can seek recovery for loss of financial support and contribution, funeral expense, and other damages.

It is not uncommon for employers to deny a crewmembers Jones Act status. When this happens, it’s important to have help from an attorney who is experienced and skilled in maritime law to fight for your right to compensation.

If you are injured or a loved one killed in a maritime accident such as this weekend’s Mississippi River tugboat sinking, contact our maritime injury lawyer at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers today to get help protecting your rights.