TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Coast Guard suspended its search Saturday evening for two people who remain unaccounted for after a tugboat crashed into a barge in the Hudson River early Saturday morning.
A few officers remained after dive teams and other searchers went home for the night, their mission out here complicated by dangerously rough water conditions, CBS2’s Steve Langford reported.
“The currents are moving very quickly and as soon as they enter the water they are dragged downstream, so it was not safe for us to be able to go under the surface of the water,” Westchester County Police Lt. James Luciano said.
According to the Coast Guard, a 84-foot tugboat collided with a construction barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge at around 5:20 a.m.
One person was pulled from the crash at around 5:30 and was pronounced dead once on shore, according to officials. Two crew members from the tugboat, one of them just 29 years old, remain missing and are presumed dead.
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino identified the dead crewman as Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, New Jersey.
CBS2 spoke by phone to Amon’s daughter.
“He loved to sail, loved fishing, loved everything to do with the water. He loved his tug boat job. When it was time to go to work, he enjoyed it,” Ericka Amon told CBS2.
The Coast Guard said Saturday evening that they were suspending the search at sunset after 12 hours of trying to locate the missing people.
“The suspension of an active search and rescue case without definitive resolution is a very difficult decision to make,” said Mr. Rodger Krass, Sector New York search and rescue mission coordinator. “There were many assets from various agencies searching by air and by sea but, pending further developments, we have decided to suspend the active search. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said State Police divers were using sonar equipment to determine the exact location of the sunken tug and still assessing whether it was safe to send divers into the river to search for the other two victims. He said the exact location of the tugboat on the river bottom was not yet known.
“You have three people who left for work and who aren’t going to come home,” Cuomo said, WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported.
The NYPD said they had a multi-agency search team canvassing the area.
“It was an extensive search for the missing crew members, but so far they remain unaccounted for,” Astorino said.
After the crash the tugboat, called Specialist, sunk 40 feet into the Hudson River. The boat, owned by Montauk-based Specialist LLC, was traveling from Albany to Jersey City at the time and was not part of the Tappan Zee bridge project, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
According to officials, 5,000 gallons of fuel on board the ship also spilled out into the river in the wake of the crash. Cuomo said in a statement that 21 workers were on the bridge construction barge that was hit, but none of them was injured. He said it appeared the workers realized the barge was about to be struck and braced for impact. He added the construction barge was illuminated at the time of the pre-dawn collision.
The barge is owned by a construction company that is associated with ongoing Tappan Zee bridge projects, according to Astorino, no one on the construction barge was injured in the crash.
“This morning’s deadly tugboat accident near the new Tappan Zee Bridge only highlights the dangerous work of those involved in such a massive construction project,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the brave first responders involved in the difficult rescue and recovery.”
“As work on the new span continues, we must be assured that an incident like this never happens again,” he added.
The investigation is ongoing.
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