As the tugboat with three crewmen began to sink in the Hudson River last month, a group of workers on a construction barge moored beneath the Tappan Zee Bridge watched in horror as the vessel slipped underwater, according to an amateur video released Monday.
“She’s going down,” one of the workers in the video was heard shouting. “That’s it.”
The 84-foot-long boat named Specialist and its three crew members disappeared beneath the dark water within seconds.
“The poor guy is inside, man,” said another man in the video.
The short footage, shot by one of the workers on the construction barge, was released by James Forde of Manhattan, an attorney for Paul Amon, 62, of Bayville, New Jersey. Amon was piloting the Specialist when the vessel crashed into the stationary construction barge on March 12 at 5:18 a.m., killing him and two crew members, Timothy Conklin, 29, of Westbury, and Harry Hernandez, 56, of Staten Island.
The Specialist was one of three tugboats that left the Albany area escorting a barge carrying a crane down the Hudson River to a terminal in New Jersey.
The Specialist was traveling on the starboard, or right side, of the crane barge, and the M/V Trevor was traveling on its port, or left side. The third tugboat, Realist, was pushing the crane barge from the stern or from the back. As the flotilla passed under the central span of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Specialist slammed into the corner of the stationary construction barge, which Forde said tore open a large hole — about 4 feet by 8 feet — on the Specialist.
“It’s pretty massive,” Forde said. “It peeled the top of the house off.”
Water came pouring into the gaping hole and quickly sank the Specialist, killing all on board.
The cause of collision is under investigation by National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard, which said will take months to complete. Among the factors the Coast Guard will examine are photographs and digital recordings of the vessel’s last voyage and its sinking.
Meanwhile, one of the tugboats’ owners, Weeks Marine, based in Jersey City, New Jersey, went to court and asked a federal judge to limit its liability to $1.5 million, the estimated value of the tugboat M/V Trevor. The company filed the petition with U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty on March 15, three days after the accident, and before salvage workers recovered the body of Hernandez. His remains were recovered on March 24 when workers raised the Specialist out of the water.
“Before the body was recovered and the investigation even began they’re already running to court, which is disrespectful to this man,” said Michael Lamonsoff, an attorney for the Hernandez family. “It’s repulsive and insensitive.”
Ronald Betancourt, attorney for Weeks Marine, did not return calls for comment.
Moments before the collision, Forde and Lamonsoff said Amon, who was piloting the Specialist, issued a directive to the crew of M/V Trevor to pull left.
“Hard left. Hard left,” Forde said, recounting what other mariners heard over the radio the night of the accident.
At the time of crash, Forde and Lamonsoff said the current was 6 knots, or 6 nautical miles per hour, which they said was very fast and the current forced the Specialist to go under.
“It’s our understanding that the Weeks’ tug may have ignored an order to go left, and, in fact, may have pushed the tug in which Mr. Amon was on into the construction barge,” Forde said.
Lamonsoff, who is a mariner, said Amon must have believed he could prevent the crash.
“You don’t issue that order unless you think you have time to avoid it,” Lamonsoff said. “A boat is a moving object. It doesn’t have brakes.”
According to Forde, witnesses said Amon could have saved himself if he had jumped off the tugboat immediately after it crashed. Instead, Amon rushed to alert Hernandez, who was inside the tugboat.
“Just as he gets in, the whole tug got swept under and it sank,” Forde said.