Two Dead, Two Missing in Corpus Christi Dredger Fire

Dredger fire corpus christi
Blast and fire aboard the Waymon L. Boyd, August 21 (Image courtesy USCG)

Published Aug 23, 2020 7:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has called off the search for two missing crewmembers from the dredger Waymon L. Boyd, which caught fire and sank at the Port of Corpus Christi on Friday. The bodies of two deceased seafarers were located on Saturday morning.

“Our Coast Guard crews worked intently alongside state and local partners to locate the two crew members who remained missing, but unfortunately, we were unable to locate them,” said Capt. Edward Gaynor, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of the missing crew members during this difficult time.”

19 people were on board at the time of the explosion and fire, and six have been hospitalized, according to emergency response agencies. 

The fire broke out at about 0800 hours on Friday, when Sector Corpus Christi received bystander reports of a blaze on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. A USCG helicopter crew rescued two injured crewmembers from the scene and transferred them to Corpus Christi Medical Center for treatment. First responders rescued a dozen more survivors, including four who were hospitalized; four more remained missing. 

The pipeline was secured Friday and the blaze on the dredger was out by 2200 hours. The vessel broke up and sank shortly after, and two additional bodies were found at 0200 hours and 1045 hours on Saturday morning. The search for the last two missing crewmembers was suspended later in the day. 

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the source of the explosion and fire was a ruptured underwater propane pipeline. At the time, the dredger was working for a private port tenant, not for the port's harbor deepening project, according to the Port of Corpus Christi Authority. A connection (if any) to the dredger's operation has not been definitively established, and an investigation is under way. 

Dive and salvage operations to clear the dredger's wreck began on Sunday. One segment of the vessel was located near the center of the channel and salvors are in the process of removing it, the USCG said. Skimming operations are under way to remove spilled diesel fuel from the vessel's tanks.

“The Captain of the Port has reopened the Corpus Christi Ship Channel with certain restrictions from Chemical Basin to Viola Basin," said Sean Strawbridge, CEO of Port of Corpus Christi. "While the search and rescue mission for the lost crewmen of the Waymon L Boyd has concluded, the suffering of the injured crew members and the families of those lost still endures. Our heartfelt prayers are with them all.