Towboat carrying 89,000 gallons of fuel sinks on Mississippi River


By Daniella Silva, NBC News

A towboat filled with thousands of gallons of diesel fuel struck a submerged object and sank on the Mississippi River on Monday.

Officials inspect the towboat Stephen L. Colby Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 which sank Monday on the Mississippi River waterfront in LeClaire, Iowa, after striking a submerged object. Kevin E. Schmidt / AP

The Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and local emergency crews responded, shutting down an eight-mile stretch of the river near Davenport, Iowa, as the vessel began leaking fuel.

Watchstanders at the Coast Sector Upper Mississippi River received a report that the 144-foot Stephen L. Colby towboat had struck a submerged object near LeClaire, Iowa, around 4:40 p.m. and was sinking.

"The Coast Guard and our partner agencies are rapidly assessing and responding to the evolving situation," Captain Byron Black, Coast Guard commander of the Sector Upper Mississippi River, said in a statement.

At the time of impact, nine crewmembers were on board, according to the Coast Guard’s statement, and all were able to make it to safety.

Approximately 89,000 gallons of petroleum are said to be on the sunken vessel.

"Eight-nine thousand gallons is a significant amount of fuel," LeClaire Police Chief Shane Thames told KWQC. "It will disperse if you don't contain it. So that can become a environmental hazard. At this point, we have no injuries, everyone is safe. So that's our next priority."

The cause of the accident is under investigation.