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DEC releases findings on barge that ran aground

The Reinauer barge that ran aground on the Hudson River near Dutchmen’s Landing in Catskill.
August 16, 2017 12:35 am

CATSKILL — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released an “After Action” report following an incident from April where a Reinauer Transportation LLC barge carrying over two million gallons of gasoline ran aground on the Hudson River near Dutchmen’s Landing in Catskill.

The report determined there were no violations of Environmental Conservation Law, but treacherous weather conditions along with pilot error are being considered as potential contributing factors to the barge running aground at around 8:35 a.m. April 4.

The barge was being hauled by the tugboat “Meredith” to the Port of Albany. The on-duty crew members named in the report are Capt. Steven Hardy, Dan Murray, Tyler Cooper and Ed Nadeau. Off-duty crew members Gerald Scott, Tony Gobin and Drew Aversano were also on board.

Hardy was interviewed at around 12:30 p.m. April 4, more than four hours after the incident, by DEC Environmental Conservation Investigators Aaron Markey and Matthew Nichols and Environmental Programs Specialist David Picket aboard the tugboat. The men were the first and only outside official personnel to communicate with the captain April 4. U.S. Coast Guard officials interviewed Hardy and his crew the next day, according to the report.

Most of the communication with Reinauer personnel took place on the day of the incident, DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Lynch said Tuesday.

“That’s when you get the most accurate information,” Lynch said. “I believe there was some followup with the company.”

Hardy told investigators he was operating the tugboat heading against the current north along the east side of the Hudson River, navigating in close to zero visibility because of fog and relying on electronic navigation equipment, according to the report.

At around 8:15 a.m. Hardy attempted to navigate to the west and back to the center of the channel, but heavy incoming tidal current began pushing the tug and barge sideways resulting in an overcorrection of course. Hardy tried to turn back north, but the barge ended up colliding with rocks adjacent to the channel marker, north of the Catskill Creek outlet.

Fog rolled in quickly and was considered the root cause of the accident, Reinauer spokesman Gary Gould said Tuesday.

“It was an unfortunate incident that came out with good results and something to hold onto and learn as we go forward,” Gould said. “Overall we were very happy with the results.”

Markey interviewed witness Robert G. Fredenburgh on April 5. He told Markey it was extremely foggy and the tugboat was close to the shore when it straightened out and ran aground, according to the report. Fredenburgh told Markey the barge and tugboat were operating on the far side of the river and began to come across before running aground.

Hardy and the crew members took alcohol and drug tests. The tests confirmed that neither substance was a factor in the incident. Hardy did not show any obvious signs of intoxication and his breath did not smell of alcohol following 2 hours of observation by Markey and Nichols.

Gould said Tuesday that Hardy and his crew have been back to work since the crash.

“Drug and alcohol tests were administered and they were clean,” Gould said.

Reinauer announced April 7 that the barge had been given a clean bill of health following an internal inspection by Reinauer, Gould said in April. At that time, Gould praised Hardy and all of Reinauer’s captains for their experience.

“Our captains are very well vetted — there’s nobody better than our captains,” Gould said in April.

The DEC report and Gould confirmed that the barge’s hull was not damaged. Hardy and the crew were pumping out the ballast tanks following the crash to lighten the barge, according to the report. No water leaked back in and no gasoline leaked out.

The DEC Central Dispatch was not immediately notified of the crash and found out about it through local news accounts, according to the report.

“We’re always assessing our internal responses,” Lynch said. “We first and foremost try to prevent an incident from reoccurring.”

DEC Public Affairs Assistant Commissioner Sean Mahar said the DEC was the first responding agency to the incident and the DEC always looks to see where it can make improvements.

“Our investigation really looks at the environmental impact,” Mahar said.

The DEC does not directly regulate boat traffic and is contact with the U.S. Coast Guard on a regular basis, Lynch said. If gasoline had spilled out of the barge, DEC officials would be weighing in on what Reinauer should have done differently.

“Typically we wouldn’t offer direct advice on piloting,” Lynch said. “Fortunately there wasn’t a spill.”

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said human error on piloting barges occurs because of the large amount of traffic on the river.

“The volume of traffic that you have is subject to human error,” Groden said. “That’s what we have to live with.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM