A search was thrown into motion in mid February to find a missing tugboat, the Lil Au out of Houma. According to Petty Office Kevin Board of the U.S. Coast Guard, and as reported in an article on the Daily World’s website,
the 52-foot tug was pushing a 140-foot crane barge south from Jonesville on the Atchafalaya River when it struck the railroad bridge at Krotz Springs about 8 p.m. Thursday night.
Jimmy Darbonne with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, which assisted with rescue efforts, said the railroad bridge had opened to let the barge pass but the large crane on the barge struck the bridge anyway.
‘That caused the rear of the tugboat to submerge,’ Darbonne said. ‘It was very cold, very rainy and very dark.’
Luckily, no one onboard was injured. The barge captain was able to swim ashore while the deck hand stayed on the barge and was later rescued by the Krotz Springs Fire Department. Both men were taken to a local hospital and released soon after. The boat is believed to have sunk or may have drifted further down the Atchafalaya River. According to Gary Solieau, director of the Port of Krotz Springs, the river is extremely high (unseasonably so for this time of year) and treacherous right now with very fast currents.
This potentially dangerous situation shows how seaman often put their lives on the line just by going to work. Luckily, they have legal protection. The Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104) formalizes their rights by allowing injured seaman (or their survivors if a seaman has been killed) to obtain damages from their employers if their employers, shipowners, captains, or fellow crew members, are deemed to have been negligent The rights afforded by the Jones Act go beyond those provided by common international maritime law because they allow injured parties to bring claims in state or federal court and entitle them to a jury trial.
Not just anyone who works on a boat is considered a seaman with the right to bring a Jones Act claim, however. The Supreme Court in the 1995 case of Chandris, Inc. v. Lastis ( 515 U.S. 347 (1995)) found that workers who spend less than 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters are presumed not to be seaman with Jones Act protection.
The Berniard Law Firm is experienced with Jones Act claims and admirality law matters. If you have been injured or a loved on has died while working at sea, one of our attorneys would be happy to discuss the possibility of a Jones Act claim with you. Please give us a call Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005.