Two Crewmembers Missing After Towboat Sinks

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River, Memphis Police Department and Harbor Patrol and the Shelby County (Tenn.) Sheriff’s Office responded to a mayday call just after 11:40 a.m. December 8 from the mv. Ricky Robinson, a towboat owned by Wepfer Marine Inc.

The mv. Ricky Robinson, a 66-foot, twin-screw towboat built in 1976 and acquired by Wepfer in 2000, sank within minutes just below the Interstate 55 bridge, which connects Tennessee and Arkansas, according to local media outlets and social media reports.

On board were Capt. Keith Pigram and deckhand Anquavius “Qua” Jamison. Both were still missing as the WJ went to press December 14. The Coast Guard, local agencies and family and friends of Pigram and Jamison mounted an intense search on the Mississippi River and along its banks in the days that followed. The Coast Guard suspended its search and rescue efforts by the afternoon of December 9 after searching 324 nautical miles of the river. Friends and family of the mariners, though, continued search and recovery efforts in the days that followed, organizing search teams at Tom Lee Park.

“Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the missing people,” said Capt. Roxanne Tamez, commander of Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River, in a statement. “We would like to extend a special thanks to the other agencies for their support in the search effort.”

Wepfer Marine released a statement December 12, which read in part, “The entire Wepfer Marine community offers its continued condolences to the family and friends of Capt. Keith Pigram and Anquavius ‘Qua’ Jamison.”

Regarding salvage efforts, Wepfer said, “The vessel is in a very deep part of the Mississippi River, approximately 65 feet deep in muddy water with virtually no visibility, and an area with swift and dangerous currents. These conditions will make salvage of the vessel a complicated multi-day, multi-step process with unique equipment requirements and modifications.”

By December 14, a team from Okie Moore Diving & Marine Salvage—a company owned by Wepfer Marine—was on the scene coordinating the efforts to salvage the Ricky Robinson.

“Today the focus is on trying to get chains under the vessel so it can be lifted and drifted to shallower and safer water,” said Wepfer Marine communications representative Ralph Berry last Thursday. “After that, it can be re-rigged and uprighted for better examination and salvage.”

The sinking of the mv. Ricky Robinson was the second Wepfer Marine vessel to sink in less than three months. On September 24, the mv. Miss Pat sank in Lake Ferguson near Greenville, Miss.

The cause of the sinking is still under investigation.