MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The U.S. Coast Guard investigated the incident and have now released some preliminary findings.
The Coast Guard used interviews, surveillance video, and evidence gathering to piece together what happened on the Mobile River, April 24. Its goal is to prevent future accidents from occurring.
"There was a certain amount of a explosive atmosphere that was present during the tank cleaning operations," said Commander Scott Muller, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile.
The barge held natural gasoline, a flammable liquid and first distillation of crude oil.
Workers were aboard the barge cleaning it, which involves pumping out residue and drying the remaining oil using mechanical blowers.
"What we suspect so far is when one of the mechanical blowers failed and the workers had to affect work to those blowers that allowed the explosive fumes or vapors or atmosphere to settle down on to the barges surface onto the waters surface," said Commander Muller. "Then eventually when that tug came nearby, it got sucked into the engine room of that tug and ignited and then it went back into the barges and the container tanks."
Commander Muller said the chain of events caused the flammable vapor inside the barge's tanks to explode.
The Coast Guard's investigation will lead to a national transportation safety board accident report.
"In the end, our primary focus is to prevent reoccurrence of similar type incidents so quite frankly we try to keep an open mind. Given the evidence and given the events we try to find areas of improvement," said Commander Muller.
The Coast Guard will now analyze all of its evidence and eventually issue its final report.
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