LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Mississippi River barge overturned while unloading steel coils in northeast Arkansas on Tuesday, and authorities were searching for two people who fell into the water and went missing.
The Coast Guard closed part of the river where it was searching for the two people, whose names hadn’t been released. The barge overturned and sank at a terminal on the Arkansas side of the river near Blytheville, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Brandon McMillan, who is based in Memphis, Tenn., about 60 miles south.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department were also taking part in the search effort, McMillan said. He said it was carrying steel coils, and that he didn’t know if anything that was on the barge could be environmentally hazardous.
Three people were first thought to have gone missing, but one of them jumped to safety when the barge overturned, said Keith Stephens, the assistant communications chief with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Kim Skelton, a dispatcher with the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department, said someone called 911 Tuesday afternoon to report the capsizing.
“The 911 caller said that they were unloading and the load shifted and then the boat overturned,” said Skelton, who didn’t publicly identify the caller.
The terminal is owned by Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan, but it didn’t own or operate the barge that capsized, said company spokesman Richard Wheatley. He declined to say who does own and operate it.
“Our first concern right now is the safety of the individuals who are reported missing and we are hoping for a positive outcome of the search that is currently underway,” said Wheatley, adding that he didn’t know how many people were onboard when the barge flipped.
Brandon Morris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, said the department doesn’t know why the barge tipped over. The department is coordinating the multi-agency response, he said.
“It’s still an evolving situation right now so we’re waiting on more information,” he said.