PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A barge equipped with a crane sank Monday afternoon in the Providence River, as fire department crews focused on determining if the incident caused any environmental issues.
But at this point neither the owner nor investigators have determined what caused the vessel to go down in the murky water.
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has determined what appeared to be diesel fuel leaking from the barge, was instead coming from the surface of the vessel.
The Providence Fire Department responded to a “vessel in distress” about 4:30 p.m., discovering the 100 foot long, and 40 foot wide barge, with a smaller boat tied to it, about three-quarters of the way submerged in the river.
Jimi Haibon saw the barge tipping, and walked toward the scene to get a closer look.
“It was just bubbling away. It was going down quick,” Haibon said. “That other boat kept it up but at one point it ended up snapping so we were worried. The way that it [looked] was just nuts.”
P.F.D. Battalion Chief Kevin Jutras said as firefighters arrived, the initial focus was to contain any potential hazards.
“There [was] what appears to be diesel fuel leaking,” Jutras said. “There [was] a sheen on the water and also what appears to be debris drifting off. So, it’s a hazard to mariners in the area.”
Jutras said a boom would be deployed in the river to contain both the sheen and debris. But again, DEM Environmental Police would later tell Jutras the sheen was caused by products that were on the barge’s exterior surface.
He said the privately owned barge had been anchored in the Providence River for about two years and that crews were able to free the smaller vessel from the 400 square foot barge before it sank.
Eyewitness News tried to speak to the owner who was on the scene, but he was too upset to answer any questions. Officials said the owner is responsible for removing his property from the water.
There are no damage estimates for the sunken barge, or reports of injuries and no word on what caused the craft to sink.
The Coast Guard and the DEM are teaming up to conduct an investigation into the incident.