published Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Search resumes for 2 missing men after barge sank in Mississippi River

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Authorities resumed searching Wednesday for two men reported missing in the Mississippi River after a barge overturned and sank while unloading hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel coil at an energy company's terminal River in northeast Arkansas.

"At this point, it's still a search and rescue mission," said Brandon Morris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. "It has not turned into a recovery mission."

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Bill Colclough, who is based in New Orleans, said search teams were looking for the two men reported to have fallen into the water while the barge was being unloaded at a terminal near Blytheville, about 60 miles north of Memphis, Tenn. He said the barge was carrying about 700,000 pounds of steel coil.

Colclough said the commercial vessel lifted to its right side and sank, and what caused the ship to flip is still under investigation.

Another spokesman for the Coast Guard in Memphis, Lt. Brandon McMillan, said about 10 miles of the river is closed for the search efforts and there was no traffic in the water area. He said the Coast Guard, the Mississippi County Sheriff's Office and Arkansas Game and Fish were taking part in the search Wednesday.

The barge was being unloaded about 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Hickman, Ark., terminal of Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan. The company said in a statement it does not own the barge. Spokesman Richard Wheatley declined to release the names of the two missing people on Wednesday or say who owned the barge.

Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said a third person was reported on the barge, but escaped to safety before it sank.

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