Police are investigating whether a tugboat captain was steering another vessel so that ship’s skipper could fool around below deck with a woman when a deadly crash occurred, killing three crew.
Harry Hernandez, 56, Paul Amon, 63, and Timothy Conklin, 29, drowned in March this year after Specialist, the tugboat they were riding on, collided with a construction boat and sank.
Specialist was part of a three-boat crew, including the Realist and Trevor, pushing a barge with a large crane down New York’s Hudson river when the crash happened near the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Police are investigating whether Paul Crowley, captain of sunken tugboat Specialist (pictured left) was piloting another boat at the time so that ship’s skipper could fool around with a woman below deck
Now an anonymous witness has come forward to claim that Paul Crowley, captain of the Specialist, was actually piloting the Realist at the time of the crash, The Journal News reports.
The source claims that James Morrison, who was supposed to be piloting the Realist, asked Crowley to cover for him while he fooled around below deck with a woman he had brought along for the trip.
Lawyers say Paul Amon, 63, was left in charge of the Specialist after Crowley moved boats, despite being too fatigued to pilot it
That left mate-in-charge Paul Amon at the helm of the Specialist as it made its way up the river from Albany to Jersey City, pushing the construction barge.
The Specialist was situated on the right hand side of the barge, with the Realist to the rear and Trevor to the left.
At around 5.20am near the Tappan Zee Bridge, Specialist struck another stationary barge, rapidly took on water, and then sank.
Video from the scene shows Amon managed to make it off the sinking tugboat, but returned in an attempt to help save Hernandez and Conklin before all three were dragged underwater.
The bodies of Amon and Conklin were recovered from the river the following day, but Hernandez’ remains were only retrieved two weeks later when the boat was brought back to the surface.
Morrison refused to tell The Journal whether he had brought a woman on board Realist, but denied that Crowley had acted inappropriately.
He said: ‘I did my 6-hour watch. He was doing a watch. Nobody “covered” for anyone.’
While Amon was qualified to pilot Specialist, heavy fog overnight during the trip had meant all hands were requested on deck, meaning he may have been too fatigued, his family lawyer said.
James Mercante, a lawyer for New York Marine Towing, said rumors that Morrison was preoccupied at the time of the accident were ‘completely inaccurate’.
Relatives of all three victims have filed multimillion dollar federal lawsuits against New York Marine Towing Inc, the owners of Specialist and Realist; Weeks Marine, the owner of the crane barge and Trevor; Tappan Zee Constructors, the bridge contractor; and Traylor Bros, the company that operated the construction barge.
The Tappan Zee Bridge, a toll crossing between Westchester and Rockland, is being constructed to replace the old bridge by the same name and is due to be completed in 2018.