Salvagers Try to Raise Sunken Barge

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
7 October 2011
By Bill Vidonic

Ohio River traffic resumed on Thursday near the Emsworth Locks and Dam as a salvage crew worked to raise a sunken barge.

Officials said the captain of the towboat Connie K. avoided what could have been a much bigger cleanup effort by cutting the barge loose from eight others as it began sinking on Wednesday evening.

"It was a head-up decision," said Ian McKelvey, assistant lock master.

The captain of the vessel, who identified himself as Don Williams, said he could not comment.

The Coast Guard will investigate what caused the barge to sink nearly a mile downstream of the Emsworth facility, said Jeffrey Hawk, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers. He said it could take crews until sometime today to raise the barge.

McKelvey said it's rare for a barge to sink.

The crew from Neville-based River Salvage Co. dredged several tons of sand from the barge, submerged in about 9 feet of water, and put the sand on another barge.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the captain radioed the locks and dam to say that one of nine barges was sinking. Five barges had sand, and four carried limestone gravel, with the cargo headed upriver, Hawk said.

After cutting loose the sinking barge, McKelvey said, the captain secured the rest of his cargo nearby. There were no injuries.

Authorities closed the river's navigation channel about 10:30 p.m. and reopened it about 12 hours later, McKelvey said. The shutdown affected only a couple of tows, he said.

The salvage company and barge owner, Campbell Transportation of Houston in Washington County, did not return phone messages.

Bill Vidonic can be reached at or 412-480-7306.