Langley, Washington State
The marina expansion project at South Whidbey Harbor hit a snag Wednesday after the barge used to install the pilings took on water and dumped a crane overboard.
As crews from Neptune Marine prepared to install the second piling in the expansion project, a slip collar around a temporary piling got caught.
To remedy the situation and avoid tipping over, crews cut the piling off. The cut released the weight and the 80-foot barge tipped partially into the water. A crawler crane on board fell into the 40-foot deep water.
Workers attend to a barge that partially sank Wednesday, resulting in a crane falling into the water.
Jon Beck, deputy fire chief with South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to the call around 9 a.m. One crew member fell into the water but was quickly retrieved. No injuries were reported, Beck said.
The barge is owned by Neptune Marine, a marine construction, environmental and transportation services company based in Anacortes. It is subcontracted by Mike Carlson Enterprises, the main contractor for the expansion project.
“Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, this is a tough situation — we have an issue,” Travis Crabb, owner of Neptune Marine said.
Crabb said the company had equipment failure and it should be fixed by middle to late next week.
Crabb said the barge took on water and the corner lifted. The crew was able to get the water pumped out in one day.
“We’re formulating a game plan to get everything squared away and get back to work,” he said.
Curt Gordon, port commissioner, said the operating company is equipped to raise the barge.
The crane just before it finally slipped off the barge
“We’re fortunate that there is very little fuel on board,” Gordon said.
A diver from Neptune Marine was able to look at the crane Thursday afternoon. The crane is on its right side with the fuel compartment in the mud. The counterweight portion of the crane broke off and the crane will need to be lifted in two pieces. The fuel compartment is not broken or cracked, but the diver could not get access to the vent to close it, said Larry Altose, spokesperson for the Department of Ecology.
The Department of Ecology estimates about 10 gallons of vegetable-based hydraulic oil, or lubricating oil, was released. No sheen or spill was coming out of the crane as of Thursday afternoon, Altose said.
A containment boom surrounds the area above the crane to prevent oil from floating away. Oil spill cleanup materials were placed inside the boom.
“Any time oil is in the water it is highly toxic and spreads over a wide area,” Altose said.
The plan is to move the barge away from the crane and put a buoy over the crane to mark its location under the water, Altose said. The boom and oil spill cleanup materials will be maintained and checked morning and night through the weekend.
The crane will be lifted sometime next week depending on weather conditions, he said. The Department of Ecology and U.S. Coast Guard plan to supervise the process.
The federal agency arrived on scene after Whidbey agencies and did marine inspections of the area. The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation to make sure everything is removed safely, said Petty Officer 2nd Class George Degener. No boating restrictions have been implemented in the area.
An employee at Whidbey Island Kayaking Co., Levi Lott, saw the incident unfold throughout the day. Lott said the barge was nearly on its side with the bottom showing around 8 a.m. He described the scene as chaotic.
“These guys have been working hard all summer, it’s unfortunate to see this happen,” Lott said.
Ed Field, operations manager for the port, said there is no reason the basic project can’t resume, but expects it will be a couple of weeks for the barge to be refurbished. The work is the contractor’s responsibility and Field said he will let them do their jobs and stay out of their way so they can stabilize the situation.
“They are equipped to handle these problems,” Field said.
“Accidents happen. Marine construction is inherently challenging,” he said.