CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md. (AP) _ A tugboat collided with a cargo ship and sank in foggy conditions early Monday, forcing authorities to close a busy waterway. Four crew members were rescued and four others were missing.
The tug was one of two that had been towing a barge when it was struck just before 7 a.m. by the larger, 550-foot ship, said Richard Chlan, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The tugs were heading east on the river and the ship, the A.V. Kastner, was westbound with a load of gypsum wallboard when the crash occurred about a half-mile offshore between two buoys at the mouth of Bohemia River, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mark Hammond.
The barge partially capsized. The ship sustained minor damage.
One person was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and listed in serious but stable condition, said hospital spokeswoman Cindy Rivers. Two other victims were taken to another hospital and treated for minor injuries. A fourth person was also rescued but details were not immediately available.
The tug, named Swift, belonged to Virginia-based Norfolk Dredging Co. Company spokesman Steve Newton said he didn't know how many crew members were aboard but confirmed there were four people missing. The Swift was towing a barge carrying dredging equipment to a project in Delaware, he said.
Diesel fuel could be seen streaming into the water. Mike Sharon, chief of the emergency response division at the Maryland Department of the Environment, said crews were assessing the size of the spill.
``It's a fairly difficult situation because you have a somewhat isolated area for a response,'' Sharon said. Sunny weather throughout the day should help evaporate the fuel, he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers closed the 14-mile-long Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to all traffic. The Elk River, about 40 miles north of Baltimore, leads to the canal, which connects the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and is the country's oldest manmade waterway in continuous use.
Last May, a crew member was killed in an accident involving a tugboat at the other entrance to the canal in Delaware City.
The Kastner is a carrier operated by Gypsum Transportation Ltd., a subsidiary of USG Corp., the world's largest manufacturer of gypsum wallboard.
The ship was carrying a load of gypsum from Nova Scotia to Baltimore, where USG has a wallboard manufacturing plant, said Bob Williams, a USG Corp. spokesman.
In March 2001, the Kastner rescued four fishermen from a boat that sank nine miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla., and received a Coast Guard commendation.