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November 17. 2013 2:17PM

Updated: Barge sinks in Piscataqua River near Portsmouth Harbor

PORTSMOUTH — Salvation operations off the New Hampshire seacoast continued Sunday, after a barge sank Saturday evening near Portsmouth Harbor.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matt Burt said one person was on the 40-foot barge when it began taking on water off New Castle, near the Kittery Point Yacht Club.

On Sunday afternoon, the Northern New England Sector Office of the Coast Guard assumed control of the investigation into the sinking.

According to Coast Guard Assistant Public Affairs Officer Ensign Connan Ingham, at 6:08 p.m. on Saturday Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor received a call from the Jimmy D., a 40-foot commercial self-propelled barge owned by Pepperrell Cove Marine in Portsmouth. A crew member alerted station dispatchers that the barge had struck a submerged object in the Piscataqua River just east of Portsmouth Harbor, and began taking on water in the forward compartment.

Station Portsmouth Harbor sent out a motor life boat to assist in efforts to pump water off the barge. The Coast Guard boat's pumps were unsuccessful in keeping up with the flooding, and the barge submerged.

"All personnel were off of the barge and safe," said wrote Ensign Ingham, in a email response to questions about the incident. "The owner was able to set the anchor, to prevent further any drifting."

Ingham reported that a breathalyzer test was conducted on the operator of the barge, with negative results. Divers arrived on scene and confirmed all of the fuel tanks were intact.

"There were reports of fuel sheen in the area, but the cause of the sheen has been confirmed as oily residue which was on the deck of the barge," wrote Ingham.

According to Ingham, the sunken barge is currently located outside of the navigable channel, with no impact to other traffic on the Piscataqua River. A boom was been placed around the barge to prevent any possible future leakage, and the location of the sunken ship is clearly marked by a white light all around hull.

Ingham said salvage operations will continue Monday morning. An exact cause as to why the barge sank had yet to be determined Sunday afternoon.

pfeely@unionleader.com

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