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1 killed; 2 others presumed dead in N.Y. tugboat crash

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A New York State Police boat passes near the site of a fatal collision in the water underneath the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, N.Y. today. A tugboat crashed into a barge on the Hudson River north of New York City early this morning killing at least one crew member and leaving two still missing.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, left, uses a diagram to explain the circumstances of a fatal collision on the water in Tarrytown, N.Y. today. A tugboat crashed into a barge on the Hudson River north of New York City early this morning killing at least one crew member and leaving two still missing.

NEW YORK » As an all-out search for two tugboat crew members stretched into hours following a deadly crash on the Hudson River, New York’s governor gave his stark forecast.

“Sometimes people go to work and they don’t come home,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as numerous agencies searched the waters near the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The two men, who weren’t identified, were presumed dead after the 90-foot tugboat named Specialist hit a barge around 5:20 a.m. Saturday and sank, killing a fellow crew member and spilling about 5,000 gallons of fuel into the water north of New York City.

The U.S. Coast Guard, New York State Police, and fire and police agencies from Westchester and Rockland counties searched throughout the day. By sunset, the Coast Guard suspended its effort. Other agencies were expected to resume their search Sunday morning.

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino identified the dead crewman as Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, New Jersey.

Cuomo said he spoke to the family of one of the missing crew members Saturday.

“This is a 29-year-old who had his whole life ahead of him. He was supposed to come home but was working a few more days because the company asked him to, and now it’s doubtful he’ll come home at all,” Cuomo said.

State Police divers began searching in the water about 12 hours after the crash. Earlier in the day, they used sonar equipment to determine the exact location of the sunken tug and said they needed to assess whether it was safe to send divers into the river to search for the other two victims. Cuomo said officials believed the tugboat was wedged on the river bottom near the mid-span of the bridge, where it crashed.

Authorities said three tugboats were pushing a barge from Albany to Jersey City, New Jersey, when one of the three — situated on the right side as it headed south — hit a stationary barge that was part of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project.

A tugboat on the left side of the barge that was being pushed, as well as one that was pushing the barge from the rear, were not involved in the accident.

Cuomo said in a statement that 21 workers were on the bridge construction barge that was hit, but none of them was injured. He said it appeared the workers realized the barge was about to be struck and braced for impact. He added the construction barge was illuminated at the time of the pre-dawn collision.

The accident occurred near the center of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Specialist sank in about 40 feet of water within minutes, authorities said. The water temperature in the area was about 40 degrees, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Cuomo said a team from the state Department of Environmental Conservation was on site with a private contractor and were deploying booms to contain the leaking diesel fuel. He said he did not expect any long-term damage as a result of the spill.

James Mercante, an attorney for the owner of Specialist, said the crew was licensed, competent and experienced.

“It’s a shocking, horrific marine tragedy,” Mercante said. “Right now the company is more concerned with the families of the crew and mourning.”

A spokeswoman for Tappan Zee Constructors, a consortium of companies building the new bridge, said the company is cooperating in the investigation.

The crash occurred near the scene of a 2013 boat crash that killed a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man. That incident, which killed Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, both 30, also involved a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge.

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