High seas off Frying Pan Shoals
on the night of January 24 led to the sinking of a tugboat and the death of three crew members.
The 125-foot tugboat Valour set its barge adrift to turn around and recover a crew member who fell overboard. During the search, the tug started taking on water and sank around 2:30 a.m. on January 25 about 39 miles off the Cape Fear coast near the Frying Pan Shoals light tower.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the crew of another tugboat, Justine Foss, helped rescue six crewmen. One died after being rescued. One of the missing two is believed to have gone down with the tug.
The Coast Guard searched more than 1,700 nautical square miles over a period of 16 hours for the other missing crew member before suspending its search.
The U.S. Coast Guard Station Oak Island did not have a boat in the water for the search and rescue efforts.
Gale-force winds exceeded 50 miles per hour and the seas were 15 to 20 feet high when the boat went down.
The barge, which was adrift for approximately 12 hours, was carrying 5.5 million gallons of petroleum. While adrift, the barge hit and displaced a buoy but caused no immediate damage.
During the entire ordeal, no oil was spilled, Coast Guard officials said.
The Justine Floss towed the barge to a mooring Thursday at the N.C. State Port Authority in Wilmington.
The Valour remains submerged in approximately 100 feet of water. Divers were to search the vessel for the crewmember and to assess any environmental impact. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident and will oversee salvage efforts. (Source: State Port Pilot)