Crewmen cut hole in capsizing tug Friday morning to save fellow crew members

Published 12:14 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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SABINE PASS — Tugboat crewmen were able to rescue two of their own in local waters after their vessel began to capsize Friday, causing the ship channel to be closed to traffic.

The tugboat Sea Cypress, a 71-feet towing vessel, made a “mayday” call over the marine radio at 5:38 a.m. Friday, saying they were taking on water while moored near the mouth of the Sabine River near Sabine Pass.

Petty Officer 1st class Corinne Vilnicki said Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston Watchstanders launched from Station Sabine with a 45-feet response boat.

When they arrived there was already a Sabine Pilot boat on scene, Vilnicki said.

The tugboat was submerged and leaning to the left side and witnesses reported two of the four crewmen were trapped in the vessel galley and the other two tugboat crewmen used a handheld torch to burn a hole and free the trapped men.

The crewmen were able to climb out of the partly submerged galley.

The Coast Guard vessel brought the crewmen to Station Sabine, where EMS assessed them and transported them to a local hospital. Vilnicki said there were no major injuries reported.

The cause of the capsizing is under investigation but crewmembers reported a wave surged over the vessel.

The ship channel was still closed to marine traffic as of 11:30 a.m. Friday and the Sabine Pilots were in the process of assessing the waterway to see if it was safe to travel near the tug.

The tug is still in the waterway but is not blocking the ship channel.