Towboat sinks in Mississippi River near St. James

A heavy lift crane hoisted a sunken towboat from the bottom of the Mississippi River and refloated it Friday in St. James Parish, the vessel’s owner said.

Jerry Hanna, owner of St. Amant-based River Ventures LLC, which owns the towboat Justice, said Friday afternoon that McKinney Salvage and Heavy Lift Inc.. of Baton Rouge, arrived on scene Friday morning and was able to lift the 56-foot vessel to the river’s surface.

Hanna said he was still in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and insurance companies about how to proceed next. He added that he expected the towboat would remain on the water for a few days.

The Justice went down around midnight Wednesday after taking on water, the Coast Guard said in a statement. Three crew members aboard the towboat were able to get off before it sank, the Coast Guard said. Hanna said the boat had just finished moving a barge.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets said the Justice, which went down at mile post 161 near the west bank of the river, was not a hazard to river traffic prior to being salvaged.

The towboat was carrying 5,336 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 gallons of lube oil when it sank. Divers were able to plug the fuel vents on Thursday, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said the amount of fuel discharged into the river was unknown, but added that the total amount of fuel in the ship has not escaped.

Coast Guard responders had been overseeing pollution response operations since 6 a.m. Thursday.

Floating containment boom had been deployed around the vessel as it rested on the river bottom, and Coast Guard personnel were watching for any effects on the shoreline.

Drinking water intakes downriver from the towboat were not likely to be affected, the Coast Guard said, but they were being monitored.

The Coast Guard said it was investigating the cause of the incident. Hanna said he does not know why the towboat began taking on water.