MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Local search crews have been combing the waters of the Mobile River looking for a man missing and presumed dead in a tragic accident.
The Coast Guard announced Thursday it had suspended its search for 64-year-old John Johnson, but local search teams continued their efforts.
PLAN OF ACTION
Divers and other search crews began arriving at the launch point on the Causeway about 7 a.m., already armed with a plan of action.
They were going to start their work outside BAE Systems shipyards where the accident happened, looking at the debris field.
Captain James Howard with the Mobile County Sheriff's Flotilla said, "We could not put divers on the debris field yesterday, because the debris field was still shifting with the water, and the danger of that was just too great to put divers in yesterday: zero visibility with concrete and steel."
But with the shifting of debris, Captain Howard felt search crews might make a discovery, and wanted them to go back to the area and scan again.
USING TWO IMPORTANT TOOLS
There were two important tools in their tool box: side scan sonar and something called "towfish" sonar.
Captain Howard said, "Your side scan, that's just very strong, like a fish finder. It scans out both sides of the vessel, but it's mounted on the vessel. The actual probe is mounted on the vessel, and it scans both sides. The tow fish is actually the one that goes out on cable. We can adjust its depth and pull it out behind the vessel to get less disturbance and also get a better death for imaging."
However, there can be no results without the human element.
Captain Howard said, "We've got eight units that are going to be on the water as far as individuals, volunteers, this morning."
Another employee of BAE Shipyards was also blown into the water Wednesday afternoon by the freak gust of wind.
He was rescued with no serious injuries.
BAE System has released the following statement regarding the accident:
"Yesterday at approximately 1:30 p.m., CDT, an unexpected weather event with high winds passed through our BAE Systems Mobile, Ala., shipyard and apparently caused the Triumph cruise ship and barges to break loose from their moorings and collide with the adjacent pier, causing it to collapse.
"As a result of this accident, two of our employees who were on the pier fell into the water. One employee was rescued yesterday and treated for minor injuries, while the other remains missing.
"The US Coast Guard and local emergency response personnel are fully engaged in this search and we continue to provide our full support following this tragedy. We are deeply appreciative of all of the dedication and hard work from each of the organizations and individuals involved.
"Last night our senior leadership team arrived in Mobile and is spending time with the family and our employees as well as supporting the overall effort.
"Our missing employee is John "Buster" Johnson, and he joined our team in 1997. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and our entire BAE Systems family during this difficult time."
The Coast Guard said the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph has been towed back to BAE Ship Systems, where work on the ship will resume.
WANT MORE INFORMATION ON SONAR?
If you want to read more about side scan sonar and towfish sonar, here's a link.
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