Response Continues to Christmas Day Coal Barge Accident on the Ohio River

Debbie Graham barges
U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Coast Guard with the Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Towing Company continue to respond to a tug and barge accident on the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky more than a week after it began.

Watchstanders at CG Sector Ohio Valley received a report at around 8:10 p.m. on Christmas reporting that the towing vessel Debbie Graham, which was pushing 15 loaded coal barges, made contact with the 2nd Street Bridge on the Ohio River causing all 15 barges to break free.

Only six barges have subsequently been recovered. Nine others are still lying on the dam just above the falls with many of them now sunk.
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According to an update from the Coast Guard on Wednesday, water at the McAlpine Dam has risen approximately three feet over the course of the past 24 hours causing one additional barge to sink, bringing the total number of sunken barges to seven. Tennessee Valley Towing Company is the responsible party.

Debbie Graham barges
U.S. Coast Guard Photo

“The Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and the responsible party are working together to evaluate the ever-changing situation each day. Tennessee Valley Towing has retained two salvage teams to raise the barges. The salvage equipment team is en route to the incident site and is scheduled to arrive on scene as early as Wednesday evening,” the Coast Guard said.

Tennessee Valley Towing Company and the salvage team are developing a salvage plan and will be working with the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers to raise the barges as safely and as soon as possible.

The Coast Guard opened the Ohio River to vessel traffic from Twelve Mile Island to McAlpine Lock and Dam, but traffic is only permitted during daylight hours.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation.