One crew member dead, one missing after barge fire near Port Aransas

One crew member was killed and one is still missing after a fire broke out on a transport barge being pulled by a tug around 4:30 Friday morning.
More than 140,000 barrels of crude were on the barge at the time, along with eight crew members.
Firefighters from the Corpus Christi Fire Department were fighting the blaze by boat.
Coast Guard officials said they have a fixed-wing plane flying search patterns over the area, as well as several boats and a helicopter, looking for the missing crew member.
A 1,000-foot protective zone has been established around the site of the blaze.
The ship channel has been closed and an oil boom is being brought out as a precaution because of a light but noticeable oil sheen on the water’s surface.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED:

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Coast Guard is responding to a vessel that caught fire Friday morning three miles off the jetties of Port Aransas, Texas.

At 4:35 a.m., Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi watchstanders received a mayday from the captain of the tug vessel Buster Bouchard over Channel 16 who reported that the barge B255 attached to his tug was on fire and two crewmembers were unaccounted for.

A Coast Guard Station Port Aransas 45-foot response boat and an Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew departed to search for the missing crewmembers.

A unified command consisting of the Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and a representative from Gallagher, who is representing Bouchard Transportation who owns the barge, has been set up to manage the incident.

The Port of Corpus Christi’s fireboat along with other local assets are on scene and attempting to extinguish the fire.

The Coast Guard has established a 1,000 yard safety zone and is working with the pilots and harbor master to control vessel traffic in the area.

As a precautionary measure, air monitoring is being conducted. At this time, there is no indication of health risks to the public.

Pollution boom is being staged to protect the environment. The barge is loaded with approximately 133,000 barrels of crude oil. There are initial reports of some oil in the water.

“In this situation, safety is paramount,” said Capt. Jason Smith, the Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi acting sector commander. “Our first objective is to find the missing crewmembers, and our immediate second objective is pollution response and ensuring navigational safety in the affected area.”

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