At about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, a 54-foot tugboat named the J.R. Nichols, which belongs to Kinder Morgan, sank near the Sims Bayou turning basin.
Four people on board the ship were rescued by a boat from the Lyondell facility refinery. One man was reported missing.
“We have active docks on the Ship Channel. And so, we always have refinery workers out on the docks and it was one of those workers that observed the tug boat going down,” Lyondell spokesman Aaron Woods said. “Then, the Houston Fire Department transported them to Southeast Memorial Hermann Hospital.”
The four were treated for hypothermia and released, officials said.
Crews with the Houston-Galveston Coast Guard, a Houston Police Department dive team and others spent hours searching for the missing man. However, the weather hampered efforts.
“It affects the search and rescue, obviously. The visibility is a little less and at nighttime, it was less. We have plenty of boats, assets, helicopters out there helping with the search,” said Capt. James Whitehead with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Sources told KPRC Local 2 that a body was found Thursday afternoon and it is believed to be the missing man, whose name was not released.
Investigators said the tugboat is slowly leaking diesel fuel. About 1,000 gallons have leaked out, and there are about 10,000 gallons in the boat’s tanks, officials said.
The ship channel has been closed from the Vopak facility to Sims Bayou. About 10 boats are waiting to get in or out, officials said.
The Coast Guard said the effects on the port of Houston are minimal.
The cause of the sinking is under investigation. The boat may be raised on Friday or Saturday, officials said.
Here are some local news coverage links from click2houston.com