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Tugboat capsizes, sinks at Portsmouth work site

Union Leader Correspondent

October 24. 2012 8:35PM
The tugboat Benjamin Bailey sinks near the Memorial Bridge construction site in Portsmouth on Wednesday after being pinned sideways against a barge. (Bruce Addison)

PORTSMOUTH - Bruce Addison just happened to look out his office window at One Harbour Place Wednesday morning when he saw a tugboat pinned sideways against a barge at the Memorial Bridge construction site.

In February, he witnessed another tugboat in a similar position get partly sucked under by the tide before being pulled out by Moran Tugboat of Portsmouth.

But the Benjamin Bailey was not so lucky Wednesday.

'I saw the tugboat sideways to the current against the barge and the first thing that crossed my mind is 'I can't believe that tugboat is like that after what almost happened before,'' Addison said.

Addison said that within two minutes the boat was listing to one side and two people were escaping through a side window before the boat sank into the river.

It remained submerged there Wednesday evening after crews failed to lift it out of the water during the afternoon's slack tide.

Addison said he could see the boat labor a bit, and then list to one side before he popped his cell phone out and began taking video.

He said it was a 'frantic' couple of minutes as the two men jumped from the boat onto the nearby barge.

Shortly after the ship sank, a life raft popped up downriver.

'It was pretty scary. It was almost like watching a plane crash,' Addison said.

Carol Morris, spokesman with Archer Western Construction, the lead contractor on the Memorial Bridge project, said the submerged tugboat has been secured and crews led by the Coast Guard will try again to salvage it today.

The 1,200-horsepower two screw tug owned by Riverside Marine in Eliot, Maine, was on hand to assist with the bridge reconstruction project when it became pinned against a barge, capsized and sank.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at

Click below to view video of the tugboat sinking:

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