Crews work to remove sunken tow boat

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The search for a missing Indiana man had to be suspended yet again because of Monday's bad weather.

But the rough conditions are not stopping divers from trying to salvage the sunken tug boat he disappeared on eight days ago.

Crews were out all weekend but still no luck finding the body of 37-year-old Christopher McAllister.

Divers are working to put a massive sling put around the sunken tug boat and soon investigators may have more answers into what happened.

The crane barge and salvage barge are in position over the sunken tug boat.

"The vessel's laying on its starboard side, that's its right side facing perpendicular to the river current," said Lieutenant Rob Reinhart with the US Coast Guard.

Two tugs will work side-by-side.

"As that vessel rises to the surface," Reinhart said. "Each level will be de-watered to reduce the weight of the vessel."

The river level is down from last week, which is helpful, but not ideal.

"No," Reinhart said. "We can't tell just due to the visibility of the river at this time."

There is still plenty of dangerous stuff floating beneath the swollen surface.

"Once the river goes back down we don't want anything," Reinhart said. "We don't want this vessel shifting, we don't want it moving."

The current is playing a huge role in the recovery effort right now.

"It's not just pulling a car out of the water," Reinhart said. "There's a lot of weight involved, hundreds of tons of vessel, plus the current and the water add to that."

Underwater, the current is about 4 to 5 knots or 6 to 7 miles per hour.

"Try and swim against that and anybody will tell you that's definitely hard to do," said Reinhart.

It is exhausting for divers with debris flying at them.

"Once the vessel's off the bottom it's going to exert that force on it which adds weight to it and it becomes very dangerous because that vessel could shift at any time," Reinhart said. "The last thing we want is another casualty out there."

The sunken tug is nearly 60-feet down.

"Two large slings or multiple slings will be put around the vessel and lift it," Reinhart said.

And it needs to be moved before the river recedes any further.

"It's a two-front war here," Reinhart said. "We have the recovery operations for Chris and putting closure for the family and helping them out and helping them cope, but on the other side, we also have to keep in mind the commerce of the river and get it open safely as well, so we're fighting a two-front war here."

One bit of good news out of all of this, Lieutenant Reinhart said divers were able to cap-off the fuel tank and the hydraulic tank, so that no diesel fuel could leak out, once the boat is pulled to the surface.

Related stories:

Copyright 2010 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.