Search Called Off For Missing Towboat Crewman
(Walls, MS) DeSoto County rescue crews call off their search for a man who reportedly fell off a towboat into the Mississippi River south of Memphis.
Volunteers were pulled off the river after learning the man wasn’t wearing a life jacket when he went overboard.
Desoto County EMA Director Bobby Story says thirty volunteers gathered on Bass Landing Road west of Walls for a search and rescue operation, “It was almost forty minutes he’d been in the water before we received the call.”
Reportedly around 6:30 Wednesday night, a crewmember aboard the southbound towboat “Augusta” fell overboard into the freezing Mississippi River.
“We were told at the time that the person that went in the water, that they had a personal flotation device on. So it gave us hope.”
But that hope turned to dissapointment Thursday morning when it was learned the 60-year old captain of the towboat wasn’t wearing a life jacket after all.
In fact the Coast Guard found the victim’s life jacket laying in the towboat’s engine room.
Bobby Story says the decision was made to pull DeSoto County volunteers off the river and off the mission, “If he didn’t have a personal flotation device on then there’s really no way we’d be able to find him with current and the debris that’s coming down the river now.”
Because of extreme temperatures and the river’s current, Director Story says he has to lookout for the safety of volunteers.
He now considers this a “recovery” operation.
Lt. Ryan Gomez says the U.S. Coast Guard is conducting an investigation into what happened aboard the “Augusta.” and whether any safety regulations were violated, “Each mariner on board is required to have a Type One life jacket. And that’s in place to obviously protect the mariner in case they were to fall in the water: in a case like this.”
The Coast Guard is still doing a “shoreline” search, hoping to find the missing crewmember.