Ohio River Lock Gate to be Lifted in Spring to Reveal Damage by Tow Boat

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 
30 December 2015
By Aaron Aupperlee

The Army Corps of Engineers won't know the extent of damage to Montgomery Lock and Dam until spring, when it expects to pull the huge gate from the Ohio River, spokeswoman Carol Davis said.
The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard continue to investigate what caused a tow boat to strike one of the lock's gates Dec. 13.

“That area of the river is somewhat difficult to navigate because of the currents,” said Steve Moschetta, a Washington, Pa., attorney whose firm handles crashes on the region's rivers. “If someone had a pilot that is really not familiar with the area, that could have played into it, but without knowing more it's hard to say.”

A tow boat pushing coal ran into a gate of the large lock chamber near Shippingport. The crash closed the lock and halted traffic on the Ohio River for about 48 hours. The Corps of Engineers closed the lock again the following weekend to make repairs.

Davis identified the tow boat as the James Morehead, owned by American Commercial Barge Line.

The Jeffersonville, Ind., company could not be reached for comment.

Moschetta said companies that own or operate tow boats are responsible for damages from crashes. The captain of the James Morehead, whom officials haven't identified, likely won't be charged or held liable for damages unless investigations show gross negligence on his or her part, Moschetta said.

“They may fire that captain, but oftentimes, when things like that occur, there is usually some kind of human error,” Moschetta said. “In other cases, there may be equipment failure.”

Moschetta said American Commercial Barge Line is one of the biggest companies using the country's inland waterways.

The company hires well-trained pilots and trains others who rise through its ranks, Moschetta said.

American Commercial Barge Lines acquired the James Morehead last month as part of a larger deal when it bought AEP River Operations, a division of American Electric Power, for about $550 million.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/9709281-74/lock-tow-boat#ixzz3vn1onySe