Four Rescued After Tugboat Sinks Off Rhode Island

Pin shows location of Point Judith in Rhode Island.
Pin shows location of Point Judith in Rhode Island.

A 55-foot tugboat towing an empty barge capsized and sank Wednesday night off of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

All four people aboard the tug were rescued from the water by a nearby fishing boat.

The incident was reported to the Coast Guard at approximately 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.

It is unclear from reports if the barge had broken away from the tug and was adrift or if it was still tethered to the tug, which sank in about 88 feet of water.

Winds at the time of the incident were reported to be 20 to 25 knots with gusts up to 40 knots.

Salvors were expected to re-asses the situation Thursday after the weather subsided.

Update: The U.S. Coast Guard updated Thursday that it was responding to multiple mariners in distress due to an early season Nor’easter in New England. About the tug:

Watchstanders at the Sector Southeast New England Command Center received a call stating the 55-foot tugboat Karen Jean was taking on water, listing and was in danger of capsizing.

Approximately 30 minutes later, the tug sank in approximately 88 feet of water, near Point Judith, Rhode Island. All four crew members entered their life raft and transferred to the Fishing Vessel Merit. The tug was towing a 110-foot deck barge at the time and the barge is still attached with 775-feet of towline. The owner reported that another tugboat is underway to recover the barge and plans to salvage the tug.

The Coast Guard added that reported weather on scene was 8-foot seas, 40-knot winds, and 61F-degrees Fahrenheit water temperature.

The Coast Guard is also responding to a 55-foot sailing vessel, ironically named Swept Away, that was swept away with five people onboard Wednesday night after the vessel lost propulsion and the crew was unable to put down the sails while in the Rhode Island Sound. Swept Away was under tow back to Newport by the USCGC Sitkinak as of Thursday morning.

A Gale Warning remains in effect through Thursday evening in Rhode Island, meaning winds of 34 to 47 knots are imminent or occurring. Throughout New England either Gale Warnings or Small Craft Advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service through Friday.