Four bodies recovered following Corpus Christi channel fire

The bodies of all four dredging vessel crew members killed in Friday’s fire in the ship channel at the Port of Corpus Christi in Texas have been recovered. 

The Coast Guard said two bodies were found when a portion of the Waymon L. Boyd was recovered from the channel Monday. Two others were recovered Saturday. 

“We can confirm that all four missing crewmen have been recovered,” Orion Marine Group CEO Mark Stauffer said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We are grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority and the rest of the associated agencies for their tireless efforts in assisting in the search-and-recovery efforts.

“We are devastated by the loss of four of our colleagues, each of whom has been a valuable part of the Orion team for many years. Our heartfelt prayers and sympathy are extended to our family and friends, and we ask that everyone please respect their privacy as we all work to recover from this terrible incident,” Stauffer said.

Orion, headquartered in Houston, did not identify the four men who died or two others who were rescued by the Coast Guard on Friday morning and transported to a local hospital.

The fire was reported at 8:12 a.m. Friday, according to the Coast Guard, which responded with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, two Station Port Aransas 45-foot response boats and the cutters Chinook and Manta. The G&T Towing tugs Ted C. Litton and Evelena also assisted in the fire-extinguishing and search-and-rescue efforts.

The fire reflashed Friday night but was extinguished by about 10 p.m. The vessel then broke apart. Divers located a portion of the Waymon L. Boyd in the middle of the channel Sunday. The last two bodies were on that piece of the dredging vessel, the Coast Guard said.

The Texas General Land Office, the state lead for coastal oil spill response, remained on the scene Monday working to identify and protect natural resources and ensure the spill was contained, according to Port of Corpus Christi officials.

The port said about 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel had been removed from the water and 680 gallons of diesel fuel and water had been skimmed by Sunday.

The captain of the port modified the safety zone in the ship channel to allow vessel traffic throughout the inner harbor with restrictions.

The Coast Guard said Monday that the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

A Port of Corpus Christi incident management team activated in response to the fire remained in place Monday as recovery work continued and as the Gulf Coast of Texas braced for possible impact from Tropical Storms Marco and Laura.

While Marco was heading for Louisiana on Monday, Laura could make landfall as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane late Wednesday or early Thursday between Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, according to Nick Austin, FreightWaves’ senior meteorologist. 

The Port of Corpus Christi, which is southwest of Beaumont, had a port condition of Whiskey on Monday. Whiskey means sustained gale force winds of 39 to 54 mph from a tropical or hurricane-force storm are predicted to make landfall at the port within 72 hours. 

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.