Investigation underway following tugboat sinking near Langdale

A team of investigators was in Williamsons Landing on Thursday to investigate why a small tugboat hauling a barge loaded with woodchips capsized and sank.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) announced on Friday the team was expected to “gather information and assess the occurrence” of the incident involving Sheena M, a 10-metre tugboat.

On Oct. 1 the tug was reported to have sunk in 122 metres of water while towing a 61-metre chip barge, Seaspan 566, to Port Mellon from Langdale. The two people on board were uninjured and rescued from the water by a nearby vessel. At the time, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre told Coast Reporter the tug “was getting run over by its small tow.”

A rainbow diesel sheen was visible on the water and the matter was turned over to the Canadian Coast Guard’s environmental response team for investigation, which typically happens when boats sink with fuel onboard.

The TSB has been following the case and interviewed the crew shortly after the tug sank, but they waited to dispatch a team to the area in case the insurance company would remove it from the water. “It doesn’t seem like it is happening any time soon,” said Clinton Rebeiro, an investigator with TSB.

While on site, the team met with the tugboat’s operator, examined the still-floating barge and loading terminal. The TSB will assess the information and is expected to have more details on the investigation in two weeks.

This is the second time the TSB has investigated Sheena M.

In 1999 a loaded chip barge it was pulling in the Fraser River struck a railway bridge, causing “considerable damage” that put the bridge out of commission for a month, and the tug lost her main mast in the incident. Misjudgment and lack of experience by the operator were identified as primary factors in the accident, according to the TSB’s findings.

The day after Sheena M sank, the TSB released findings from its investigation into the capsizing and sinking of another tugboat that was overtaken by the barge it was towing.

In the report, the TSB noted a “long history of girding occurrences.”

“Between 2005 and 2018, the TSB received reports of 26 girding situations resulting in 21 capsizings.”

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