Photo of towing vessel Kevin Michael under way after the accident.

​Towing vessel Kevin Michael under way after the accident. Source: US Coast Guard​​

Contact of Kevin Michael Tow with Melvin Price Locks and Dam Guide Wall

Investigation Details

What Happened

On March 19, 2021, about 1138 local time, the towing vessel Kevin Michael was transiting down river on the Mississippi River with a crew of nine pushing a 15-barge tow when the tow struck the bull nose of the upstream main lock chamber guide wall at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton, Illinois, resulting in the tow breaking apart and damaging the dam gates.1 No pollution or injuries were reported. Total damages to the barges and dam gates were estimated to be $1,172,227.

What We Found

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the contact of the Kevin Michael tow with the Melvin Price Locks and Dam guide wall was the Kevin Michael pilot not effectively compensating for the strong outdraft and wind above the dam while navigating toward the lock during a period of high-flow conditions.

Lessons Learned

​Use of Charted Sailing Lines

Generally, a sailing line is assigned to a known safe route used by commercial vessels. A sailing line is developed under considerations of channel depth, current patterns, and any other known obstructions to navigation. In some areas, a sailing line is positioned to address a specific navigational hazard, such as the outdraft near the Melvin Price Locks and Dam. A charted sailing line provides for a safe and successful transit when used as a guide along with the mariner’s own experience and assessment of the existing circumstances.​