Search Suspended for Missing Towboat Captain on Lower Mississippi

seattle slew towing vessel
File Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Vladimir Knyaz

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for the captain of a towing vessel capsized on the lower Mississippi River near Point A La Hache, Louisiana on Monday night. 

Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders received a notification at 8:12 p.m. reporting that the 54-foot inspected towing vessel Seattle Slew had capsized at mile marker 55 near Myrtle Grove Fleet with three people on board.

Two people were subsequently recovered but the third person, reported to be the captain, was missing.

The Coast Guard closed the river from mile marker 55 to mile marker 58 as crews canvased the river for the missing person. 

The Coast Guard reported Tuesday evening that it had suspended the search after searching 158 square-nautical miles for approximately 18 hours.

“The decision to suspend a search is never easy,” said Cmdr. Michael Wolfe, a search and rescue mission coordinator at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. “We saturated the search area with search crews but, unfortunately, were unable to locate the missing person.”

The Seattle Slew was located Tuesday outside the ship channel at mile marker 57, and the Mississippi River has been re-opened to all traffic with restrictions requiring minimum safe speed and wide berth from mile markers 56 to 58. 

The vessel is operated by Turn Services of New Orleans, Louisiana. 

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

The sinking is the second involving a towing vessel in as many weeks on the lower Mississippi as spring runoff floods the nation’s inland rivers.

Last week, the towing vessel Michelle Anne sank after hitting an anchored bulk carrier upriver near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thankfully all four crew members were rescued.