CORNWALL – The job of moving a barge into place on the St. Lawrence River under the north channel bridge turned into a catastrophe Monday afternoon.
Two tugboats capsized within hours of each other as they battled the strong river current.
Witnesses say the first tug – Lac Manitoba – tipped over around 4 p.m. while the crew managed to escape before the boat capsized.
“(There was) lots of diesel fuel and debris floating. My finance and I picked up a lot of wood pieces that was floating,” Angie Primeau said in an email to Cornwall Newswatch.
About five hours later, a second tug overturned in the river on the south side of the barge, closer to the Cornwall Island side of the river about 500 feet downstream of the new low-level bridge.
There were reports one person on the barge was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Mark Rabbior told Cornwall Newswatch the barge was not compromised but the Lac Manitoba did leak some hydraulic fluids and diesel fuel.
Rabbior couldn’t say how much of the fluids spilled into the St. Lawrence River.
Officials in Akwesasne, New York State, Quebec and the Cornwall water treatment plant were notified as a precaution.
Public Works General Manager John St. Marseille said the intake for the city’s water is above the OPG dam in Lake St. Lawrence and is upstream from the contamination.
The MOE won’t be going to the scene.
Rabbior noted that Transport Canada has “an approved plan” to deal with the situation and upright the tug, which could happen Tuesday morning.
With the second tug now capsized, it’s not known if the plan of righting the boats still applies.
The following photos were taken by Capt. (Ret.) Gerald Joanisse, Air Cadet League of Canada, during a Cornwall Kiwanis Royal Canadian Air Cadet 325 Squadron familiarization flight with Air Cadets on Monday evening. Click on a photo to open a gallery of the three images.
Video courtesy of Mallory Poirier.