Sunken Tug Caused Mississippi River Closure

After the 48-foot C-Pec sank in the channel on Saturday near Venice, La., about 77 miles south of New Orleans, the Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River to traffic at that point.

Venice, La., has seen more than its share of trouble lately, including significant damage from Hurricane Katrina and oil washing ashore from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The latest trouble to visit the small town was short-lived, however. The 48-foot tugboat C-Pec sank on Saturday in the Mississippi River channel, causing the Coast Guard to close the river above Head of Passes near Venice. The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue boat and a helicopter after receiving a report from a passenger vessel near the tug at 12:10 p.m. that the boat had capsized and sank.

The Coast Guard's latest news release said the decision was made to reopen the river to traffic, with safety restrictions in place, on Sunday. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had a boat on scene with sonar equipment to locate the tug, from which two people were rescued by a nearby boat.

"The C-Pec is completely submerged in the channel. There were four external 500-gallon tanks that broke free and produced a minor sheen. All tanks have been recovered, and the sheen has dissipated due to the river currents. A full waterway closure was put in place at 1 p.m. on the Mississippi River from mile marker zero to mile marker 10 above Head of Passes," the initial news release stated.

"The Coast Guard is actively working with all available resources and intends on re-opening the lower Mississippi River once it is determined to be safe for the navigation of all vessel traffic," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Frechette, situation watchstander at Sector New Orleans. The cause of the sinking is under investigation, and Sector New Orleans is trying to contact the responsible party to identify an oil spill response organization to determine a salvage plan.

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