LULING, La. (AP) — Three people were missing after two barge towing vessels collided Sunday on the Mississippi River in an accident that also may have released a small amount of toxic vapor into the air, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard said in a news release that the two vessels collided Sunday morning near Luling, Louisiana. The towing vessel, RC Creppel, sank, and three crew members were missing. A fourth person aboard the vessel was rescued by a private boater.
The Coast Guard did not release the names of the missing mariners. The section of the river was closed to vessel traffic.
“We will continue to keep covering the area, searching the area until we find these individuals," Commander Robert Trevino told reporters at a news conference.
The RC Creppel was pushing two barges carrying sulfuric acid and the barges broke away during the accident. One of those barges was damaged in the incident and reportedly released a small amount of vapor into the air, the Coast Guard said.
Trevino said it was determined to be a “a small acute release" after a pressure valve was damaged and that air quality was being monitored as a precaution. He said there are no indications of a leak. The barge was above the waterline and penned against the bank.
St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell said there were no immediate health concerns. He said the waterworks and industries along the river were told to close water intakes from the river as a precaution.
“This is a complex response that has a search-and-rescue component, as well as a pollution component that will require planning and coordination to execute," Capt. Kristi Luttrell, the Commanding Officer of Sector New Orleans, said in a statement.
The other towing vessel involved in the accident is named the Cooperative Spirit.