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Saturday’s Tragic Tugboat Crash, Explained

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What happened?

Three boats transporting a tower crane down the Hudson River disembarked Albany for a terminal in Jersey City Friday night. One of the three boats, the Specialist, which was on the starboard (right) side of the moving barge, struck the stationary barge Saturday morning, as it passed the central span of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Upon contact with the barge, Specialist quickly sank 40 feet to the bottom of the Hudson.
Three have been proclaimed dead, though only two bodies (those of Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, N.J, and Timothy Conklin, 29, of Westbury, Long Island) have been found.  Harry Hernandez, 56, of Staten Island, is still missing and has been presumed dead.
At the time of the collision there were 13 construction workers on the stationary Tappan Zee barge. Fortunately, all were able to brace themselves and avoid injury.
What caused the crash?
Unlike the 2013 Hudson River powerboat-barge crash, in which a drunk captain drove into a construction barge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man, Saturday’s crash is looking like a faultless tragedy. “The barge was stationary. The tugboat crew knew they were too close … They simply couldn’t move in time,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo explained on Sunday. He added, “Sometimes you wonder about lessons … Sometimes it’s just a pure accident and that’s what this occurs to be, just a pure accident.”
What now?
Mourning, of course.
In terms of reconnaissance, the rescue and recovery operation has shifted to a salvage phase, according to Kieran O’Leary, a Westchester County police spokesman. Authorities are still searching for the body of Harry Hernandez.
Crews are also working to clean up the oil spill that resulted from the crash – nearly 5,000 gallons of the tugboat’s own fuel was leaking into the river, causing a large sheen of oil, according to Governor Cuomo. “They have about 3,000 feet of boom put across the river at Croton, and about 9,000 feet near Piermont [to contain the oil] … It appears from observation from a helicopter that the sheen now is about south to the Piermont Point and is across the river. So it has gone somewhat further south from yesterday and from end to end across the river,” the Governor explained.
“This morning’s accident at the Tappan Zee Bridge is a tragedy for all involved and we must call into service all resources available at our disposal immediately to find the two missing crew members of the tugboat Specialist,” said New York State Senator David Carlucci in a public statement on Saturday. “What is also concerning is the oil currently leaking from the Specialist and its impact on the delicate ecosystem surrounding the bridge. I urge the public to allow law enforcement agencies and the Department of Environmental Conservation to do their jobs so this tragic situation can be resolved as soon as possible.”
And though the crash looks to be a “pure accident,” an investigation by multiple agencies will look into what led to the crash.


Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.


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