Marine Accident Report

Fire Aboard Construction Barge Athena 106
West Cote Blanche Bay, Louisiana
October 12, 2006

NTSB Number MAR-07/01
NTIS Number PB2007-916401

Executive Summary: About 1155 central daylight time on Thursday, October 12, 2006, the uninspected towing vessel Miss Megan was pushing two deck barges in the West Cote Blanche Bay oil field in Louisiana, en route to a pile-driving location. Barge Athena 106 was tied along the port side of barge IBR 234. The Miss Megan was secured astern of IBR 234, pushing both barges. The Miss Megan was crewed by a licensed master and a deckhand. The construction barge had six workers on board, consisting of one foreman, one crane operator, and four barge hands. While the vessels were under way, the aft spud (a 5-ton steel shaft used as a mooring device) on the Athena 106 released from its fully raised position. The spud dropped into the water and struck a submerged, buried high-pressure natural gas pipeline. The resulting gas release ignited and created a fireball that engulfed the towing vessel and both barges. The master of the towing vessel was killed, along with four barge workers. The Miss Megan deckhand and one barge worker survived. One barge worker is officially listed as missing.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was Athena Construction’s failure to require its crews to pin the spuds securely in place on its barges, which allowed the sudden, unintentional release of the Athena 106’s aft spud, rupturing a buried pipeline and causing natural gas to surface and ignite. Contributing to the accident was the failure of Central Boat Rentals to require, and of the Miss Megan master to ensure, that the barge spuds were securely pinned before getting under way.

The Safety Board’s investigation of this accident identified the following safety issues:

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, Athena Construction, and Central Boat Rentals.