June 20--HARTFORD -- Alton firefighters responded to a distress call from a sinking tugboat near Hartford early Friday.
Alton Fire Chief Bernie Sebold said the department was notified by the U.S. Coast Guard at approximately 10 a.m. of a distress call from a tugboat that was taking on water on the Mississippi River near Hartford. Alton firefighters responded on the Marine 1 fire boat to the sinking tugboat, which was located just north of the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower, according to Sebold.
The boat's passengers, between two and three, Sebold said, had escaped the sinking boat
"When our boat got there, the tugboat ... was not tied to a barge," Sebold said. "It had already completely sank. The individuals that were on it, they got off safely prior to it sinking."
The cause of the boat sinking is still unknown. Sebold said all the boat's passengers escaped without harm.
The department's biggest concern after the boat sank was the environmental ramifications of the accident -- Sebold said diesel fuel and oil were leaking out of the boat and rising to the water's surface. As a response, Marine 1 was working with Phillips 66's emergency response team to mitigate the damage. Sebold said Marine 1 was pulling a floating "boom" behind it in an attempt to keep the hazardous material from going down the river toward St. Louis. Sebold said the crew had pulled over 100 feet of boom to try to contain the spill.
The department handles hazardous material calls, Sebold said, but the clean up of the incident is handled independent of the city.
"As of right now there is not a life-safety issue to human life, so we're just helping control the environmental hazard," Sebold said. "As soon as that's in check, our boat will be returning to the city limits."
Nathan Grimm may be reached at 618-208-6451 or on Twitter @GrimmTelegraph.
Copyright 2014 - The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.