published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Search persists for 2 missing in Mississippi River

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Authorities carried on their search Wednesday for two men reported missing in the Mississippi River a day earlier after a barge carrying tons of steel coil flipped and sank while moored at a terminal in northeast Arkansas.

The two fell into the water Tuesday afternoon while the barge was being unloaded at a terminal east of Blytheville, about 60 miles north of Memphis, Tenn., said Bill Colclough, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in New Orleans. He said the barge lifted to its starboard side and sank — but why it did so wasn't known.

The vessel, moored at the Kinder Morgan dock near Hickman, was carrying about 700,000 pounds of steel coil.

"Right now, we're treating it as an active search and rescue case," said Ryan Tippets, another U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in New Orleans. "It's our job regardless to search no matter what. There's not any indicators either way if they're alive or dead. But we're treating it as a search and rescue case."

Houston-based Kinder Morgan said it did not own the barge. A spokeswoman for the company, Sara Loeffelholz, said the two men worked for Kinder Morgan through a staffing agency. Their names were not being released.

The barge was fully submerged along the river's tree-lined banks. The river was running swiftly and just below flood stage Wednesday just south of where Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee meet.

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