One Dead, Two Missing In Louisville Barge/Boat Accident

Search teams have covered more than 60 miles of the Ohio River looking for a missing man and woman following an accident between a commercial tow and a small pleasure boat April 17 in Louisville, Ky.

Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley, based in Louisville, received a call at 10:08 p.m. Eastern time from the mv. Ronald E. Wagenblast, owned by Marquette Transportation Company, Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley Lt. David Schneider said. The crew pulled five people from the water. One of those five people later died at an area hospital. The others were hospitalized. Two people, a man and a woman, remain unaccounted for, although search teams have said they are presumed to be deceased, turning an initial rescue effort into a recovery attempt.

“Our investigating officers are looking into all the information,” Schneider said. “They’re still conducting interviews.”

The Coast Guard was conducting a joint investigation with the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.

The Ronald E. Wagenblast was pushing four loaded barges in a two-by-two configuration when the incident occurred at Ohio River Mile 216, Schneider said. The area is near the Greenwood Boat Docks. A professional fireworks show, Thunder Over Louisville, held annually along the riverfront in conjunction with the city’s Kentucky Derby Festival, had just concluded.

Officer Beth Ruoff with the Louisville Metro Police Department’s media and public relations office, said water, shoreline and helicopter searches were ongoing by Louisville Metro police’s river unit with assistance from the Louisville Fire Department, Pleasure Ridge Park Fire Department, Campbellsville Fire Department, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Marquette Transportation Company released a statement saying, “Late in the evening of April 17, an incident resulted in a small pleasure craft capsizing near the lead barges of a Marquette tow. Marquette’s mariners responded quickly and rescued five individuals from the water, who were then transported by local authorities to the hospital. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals and families impacted by this tragic event. Marquette is cooperating fully with all governmental agencies that are investigating this incident and conducting search efforts.”

According to the Inland River Record, the Ronald E. Wagenblast is a 6,140-hp. twin-screw towboat built in 1961 by the St. Louis Shipbuilding & Steel Company. Originally called the John Ladd Dean, it also was once the Jerry E. Holbert. It was previously owned by Midland Enterprises, Inc. before being sold to Ingram Barge Company and then Excell Marine before being purchased by Marquette.