The body of a Staten Island man was recovered Thursday along with the tugboat he was in when it crashed and sank in the Hudson River nearly two weeks ago, killing all three crew members on board.
The remains of the last crewman, Harry Hernandez, 56, who was trapped inside the tug, were removed after the boat was lifted out of the 46-foot-deep water near the Tappan Zee Bridge, said Phil Oliva, a spokesman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
“He [Hernandez] was in a bunk room, near the front of the vessel on the starboard side,” Oliva said. “There was a lot of damage. There was a lot of steel in the area. We had to cut our way in there.”
Members of Hernandez’s family watched from a pier in Tarrytown as salvage workers used a giant crane to pull the 84-foot- long vessel, named Specialist, to the water’s surface, according to Oliva and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The family declined to speak to reporters, but issued a statement through Astorino’s office.
“It has been a very difficult two weeks for the family. We appreciate everyone who has expressed their concern and helped to bring our family member back home,” according to the statement. “Even though we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, we are comforted to know that we can now put his body to rest.”
The Specialist was one of three tugboats that left the Albany area on the night of March 11 escorting a barge carrying a crane down the Hudson River to a terminal in New Jersey. As it passed under the central span of the Tappan Zee Bridge at 5:18 a.m. on March 12, the tugboat slammed into the corner of the stationary barge and quickly sank.
Crew on the other tugboats tried to help the Specialist’s crew members, to no avail.
The bodies of crew member Timothy Conklin, 29, of Westbury, and the vessel’s captain, Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, New Jersey, were recovered within days of the crash. Both men drowned, Astorino has said. Divers had spotted Hernandez in the sunken boat days after the crash, but were unable to remove his body.
The tug owner hired Donjon Marine Co. Inc. to recover the Specialist. The salvage operation began about 7 a.m. Thursday and by 9 a.m. Oliva said the tugboat was raised, and the Westchester County Police Marine Unit and Emergency Services Unit boarded the vessel and removed Hernandez’s body. The police also retrieved evidence from the tugboat, including navigation systems, GPS devices, logbooks and other items.
“All of that will be reviewed and hopefully help the police determine the cause of the crash,” Oliva said.