- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

PORT HERMAN, Md. (AP) A tugboat collided with a cargo ship and sank in foggy conditions early yesterday, forcing the closure of the nearby Chesapeake and Delaware Canal the nation's third busiest.
Five members of the tugboat crew were rescued, one suffering serious injuries, and four others were missing following the collision. No injuries were reported among the 26 crew members on the cargo ship.
The tug, the Swift, was one of two that had been towing a barge when it was struck just before 7 a.m. by the larger ship, said Richard Chlan, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The tugs were heading east on the river, and the ship, the A.V. Kastner, was westbound with a load of gypsum rock when the crash occurred about a half-mile offshore between two buoys at the mouth of the Bohemia River, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mark Hammond.
Tom Putney, who lives on a bluff overlooking the Elk River, said he woke up when he heard a "long, continual crash of steel on steel."
"The noise shook the house … it just kept going, it just kept grinding," Mr. Putney said.
Mr. Putney said he went outside but could not see anything in the fog.
His wife, Mary, said she heard alarms sounding on the vessels. When the alarms stopped, she said she heard people shouting.
The collision sank the tug and left the barge partially submerged. The Kastner sustained a hole about the size of a manhole above the waterline.
"They're determining right now the best way to get it to a pier to assess the damage," said Coast Guard Ensign Steve Youde.
One person was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and was reported in serious but stable condition, said hospital spokeswoman Cindy Rivers.
Two other victims Roy Young, 48, of Middleburg, Fla., and Troy Link, 38, of Hampton, Va., were taken to Union Hospital in Elkton. Mr. Young suffered mild hypothermia, and Mr. Link was treated for skin exposure to gasoline, a hospital spokeswoman said. Both were released yesterday.
Two others also were rescued, but their conditions were not immediately known, said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
The crew member taken to the trauma center suffered head and shoulder injuries when he was hit by a refrigerator in the galley. He was picked up by a boat from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, he said.
The two taken to Union Hospital were rescued by the second tug and were treated for hypothermia. The other two made it to a lifeboat dropped by the freighter, Mr. Banks said.
Divers said the water temperature early yesterday was 46 degrees, Mr. Banks said.
Diesel fuel could be seen streaming into the water after the sinking. Mike Sharon, chief of the emergency response division at the Maryland Department of the Environment, said crews were assessing the size of the spill.
The Army Corps of Engineers closed the 14-mile-long Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The Elk River, about 40 miles north of Baltimore, leads to the canal, which connects the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River.
The canal is the country's oldest manmade waterway in continuous use.


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