Crew Uninjured After Boat Sinks Near Olmsted

Three crew members escaped injury when the mv. Betsy Wepfer sank December 27 just upstream from Olmsted Locks and Dam.

The Coast Guard was notified at 8:38 p.m. Central time of the tugboat sinking at Ohio River Mile 963, according to the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Paducah, Ky. It went down in about two minutes, according to the Coast Guard.

The location is just upstream from the Olmsted dam, which is at River Mile 964.4, and just downstream from the former Lock & Dam 53 at Mile 962.

The boat is owned by Wepfer Marine. A rescue boat from Olmsted retrieved the crew, who were unharmed, according to emergency services.

Abby Korfhage, public affairs specialist with the Louisville Engineer District, said Olmsted Locks and Dam operators Scott Ohlemacher and Joe Zeiler quickly rescued the mariners before the boat could sink after the vessel sent out a distress call. Emergency responders and the Coast Guard were then dispatched to Olmsted to further assess the situation.

The Coast Guard closed the channel for roughly 12 hours until sidescan sonar indicated the boat was well outside the channel,. and Okie Moore Diving & Salvage was expected to begin salvage operations quickly.

According to the Inland River Record, the mv. Betsy Wepfer is a 60- by 22-foot, 960 hp. twin-screw boat built in 1980 by Louis G. Ortis Boat Company of Krotz Springs, La. It was originally named the Pony Express and owned by Canal Freight Lines Inc., of Houston, then renamed Hondo when sold to Alamo Inland Marine Company of Houston. It also spent time in the hands of Dixie Marine Inc. and Kirby Inland Marine before being sold in February 2016 to Wepfer Marine of Calvert City, Ky.