Four crew members died and at least six others were injured when the dredge Waymon L. Boyd became engulfed in fire while working in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
State and federal agencies are still investigating the incident, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believes the 152-foot cutter head suction dredge struck a submerged gas pipeline. The impact ignited a massive inferno visible throughout the port.
“A geyser of gas and water erupted adjacent to the vessel,” the NTSB said in preliminary findings released in late September. “Shortly thereafter, the gas plume ignited and fire consumed the vessel and surrounding shoreline.”
There were 18 people working on the dredge on Aug. 21 when it reportedly struck the pipeline at about 0805. Two deceased crewmembers were found separately the morning after the incident; two others were found inside the sunken dredge on Aug. 24. The four victims have not been publicly identified. Six surviving crewmembers suffered serious burns that required treatment at a San Antonio burn center.
The NTSB and other authorities have not released a cause for the incident, nor have they explained how the dredge made contact with the pipeline. A spokesman for vessel operator Orion Marine said the company’s practice is to identify and mark pipelines located near active dredge sites before a project begins.
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