Sunken Tugboat with Body Inside Recovered from Hudson River

(Photo: Mark Vergari, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)
(Photo: Mark Vergari, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)

The raising of a sunken tugboat brought closure to a family and will give investigators critical pieces to the puzzle of how the vessel ended up at the bottom of the Hudson River, officials said.

The tugboat Specialist and the body of its third crew member, Harry Hernandez, were recovered Thursday, almost two weeks after the boat smashed into a construction barge in the early morning March 12 and sank near the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Officials hope that a preliminary report on the accident, which killed all three people on board the tugboat, will be available next week, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said.

The family of Hernandez, a 56-year-old Staten Island resident, watched from shore as his body was recovered. Family members waved white flags with pink hearts as they stood near the river.

Astorino said he had spoken with Hernandez’s family.

“Obviously, it’s been a traumatic experience for them,” he said. “This was unfortunately a fateful journey. Today brings closure to them in many ways.”

Investigators are collecting evidence on the 84-foot boat, which was brought to the water’s surface from about 40 feet down and tethered to a barge. Later Thursday it was to be put onto a barge and moved to a nearby mooring for further investigation before being taken Friday to Newark, N.J., officials said.

“The forensic investigation and the evidence that’s being collected today will hopefully tell us the final story, the full story, on how this tugboat sunk, and how three people on board drowned,” Astorino said.

The bodies of the two other crew members were recovered following the accident, but divers could not access Hernandez’s body, which was blocked with debris and damaged parts of the boat. Water was being pumped out of the boat to ensure its stability and capture any remaining fuel.

“Salvage is never easy,” Coast Guard Capt. Mike Day said. “It’s always complex. But this one seems to be, so far, moving at a good pace.”

Day said investigators were looking for the boat’s log book, which should have routine entries from the crew. They also were searching for the GPS device, which will reveal the boat’s speed and path in the water. Officials would then be able to analyze the currents and tides to help piece together what happened.

When it the investigation is finished, the tug will be released to its owners, Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said.

“After that, it’s up to the owners as to what happens to it,” he said.

The Specialist was one of three tugboats pulling a barge from Albany, N.Y., to New Jersey at the time of impact.

Also killed in the crash were Paul Amon, 63, of Bayville, N.J., and Timothy Conklin, 29, of Westbury, N.Y.

“It has been a very difficult two weeks for the family,” Hernandez’s family said in a statement released through Westchester County police. “Even though we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, we are comforted to know that we can now put his body to rest.”

Follow Matt Spillane on Twitter: @MattSpillane

SOURCE: Matt Spillane
The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News