In February the push boat JR Nichols sank in the Houston Ship Channel when it was caught in the wake of a tractor tug. The US Coast Guard has issued the following safety alert.(Thanks to Dennis Bryant for bringing this to our attention)
Recently a push boat operating “unfaced” (no barges attached) in the Houston Ship Channel flooded and sank while in the wake of tractor tug resulting in the death of the push boat crew and the narrow escape of two others. Although the investigation is not yet compete, it appears that the following occurred: The vessel’s watertight doors leading to its engine room had each been pinned open. The push boat had very little freeboard and was fully loaded with fuel and water. As it took the wake of the tractor tug, the vessel listed to one side and down flooded the engine room through a watertight door. As it rolled to the other side, it took on more water, eventually sink stern first and coming to rest on the bottom of the channel in an upright position. A person working in the engine room was trapped by the incoming water and drowned. Two others narrowly escaped death after being trapped in a berthing area for over 10 minutes, breathing only a pocket of air before taking dramatic efforts to reach the surface through a broken window.