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Deadly LI tugboat crash near Tappan Zee Bridge, officials say

A tugboat owned by a Montauk company, The

A tugboat owned by a Montauk company, The Specialist, crashed into a stationary barge portion of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project early Saturday, March 12, 2016, Westchester police said. One crew member is dead and two others are missing after the tugboat sank in the Hudson River north of New York City. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

One man was killed and two other crew members are missing in the Hudson River after a tugboat crashed into a stationary barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge and quickly sank early Saturday morning, officials said.

The tugboat, called The Specialist and owned by a Montauk company of the same name, was working with two other tugs pushing a crane barge down the river to a terminal in New Jersey from Albany.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, speaking with reporters near the scene, said an early investigation revealed the tugboat’s crew realized too late that the vessel was dangerously far to the right.

The crew of The Specialist signaled to the other two vessels that they were too close to the barge, but it could not avoid the collision. Officials are also listening to radio communications between the doomed tugboat, the other tugs and the barge that took place just before the crash, apparently notifying the barge crew that their tug was too close, Westchester officials said.

“They could not move to the left quickly enough,” Cuomo said.

At 5:18 a.m., The Specialist hit the barge, which also was carrying a crane and is part of the ongoing construction project to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The tug sank in about 40 feet of water within minutes, Cuomo said, spilling about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the river.

The exact cause of the crash is not yet known, but Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III said investigators will look at several factors that could have contributed, including the boat’s speed, the water temperature, the wind, the current and the tide. Also under investigation is whether there was proper lighting on the barge at the time of the pre-dawn crash.

The body recovered Saturday morning was that of Paul Amon, 52, of Bayville, New Jersey, according to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Amon was found floating in the water after being thrown from the tugboat, but it is unclear what happened to the other two crew members — they could have drowned inside the vessel when it sank or could have been thrown into the river on impact, officials said.

The missing men were not immediately identified. Cuomo met with one of their families, that of a man he said was 29 years old.

After tide conditions prevented divers from searching the water earlier in the day, a first dive operation was expected to begin around 5:30 p.m. Officials said salvage negotiations are also underway, because the submerged tug is a navigational hazard in the busy channel.

Cuomo said The Specialist, which was operating with one tugboat to its left and another behind it, was about 84 feet long and operated by New York Marine Towing out of Albany.

As the dive operation ramped up Saturday evening, Cuomo said a boom is being operated to contain and sop up the fuel, which left a slick roughly 100 yards wide and 5 miles long.

“We’re working diligently to clean up the diesel spill to protect the river,” he said. “It’s not a good situation, clearly, but we don’t expect at this time any long-term damage. . . . we got on it right away.”

The collision occurred near the scene of a 2013 boat crash that killed a bride-to-be and the groom’s best man. That crash also involved a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge.

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