Tug accident kills crewman
PORT VALDEZ: Bitt gives way under strain, hits man 30 feet away.
By ALEX deMARBAN
Anchorage Daily News
Published: May 2, 2006
Last Modified: May 2, 2006 at 01:46 AM
Charles Wamser escaped death several times during his life on the water, including about eight years ago when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter plucked him from a sinking fishing tender near Ketchikan, his family said.
But death caught up with him in Port Valdez Sunday.
The Crowley Marine Services employee was standing on the deck of the tug Tan'erliq, which was taking up strain on lines to a 400-foot barge. He was killed when part of a metal deck post on the barge snapped, striking him in the face, the Coast Guard said.
Wamser, 46, and other crewmembers were tightening a mooring line of an 8,168-ton barge with a hydraulic winch, said investigating officer Lt. Heath Hartley, with the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Valdez.
That's when the 30-pound crosspiece exploded from a mooring bitt and flew about 30 feet down from the barge deck to the tug before striking Wamser, Hartley said.
He died immediately.
No other crewmembers were hurt, Hartley said.
Crowley operates the 30-year-old oil spill response barge, named 450-3, and the 140-foot tug Tan'erliq under a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s Ship Escort Response Vessel System, which escorts oil tankers through Prince William Sound, Hartley said.
The tug was tying to the barge to conduct maintenance.
Counselors were called in to talk to the tugboat crew who witnessed the accident and several employees manning the barge, he said.
The Coast Guard has no reports of previous deaths in Prince William Sound caused by a snapped bitt, he said. The case is under investigation.
Wamser is the first Crowley employee killed in Prince William Sound in the 28 years the company has provided escort services there, said Mark Miller, director of corporate communications, in an e-mail.
Wamser's sister, Terrilyn Wamser of Anchorage, called her younger brother a generous, adventurous spirit raised in Alaska on the deck of fishing boats. He taught himself to fly and land a small plane in Naknek about 25 years ago, relying on the assistance of skilled bush pilots who guided him safely to the ground via radio, she said.
"He just lived life to the fullest," she said.
Alyeska and Crowley employees have established the Charles Wamser Memorial Fund at all Wells Fargo branches in Alaska to benefit his surviving daughter Dorrie Wamser, 9.
I didn't know him, but it's still kind of a shock. I feel really bad for his daughter...she's so young.