Updated at 8:08 p.m. on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, with more information and photos.
For at least the third time in four years, a company that specializes in raising sunken boats and marine construction had a truck belonging to its owner sink to the bottom of a local waterway.
Emergency crews were called to Manufacturers Road along the Tennessee River shortly before noon Tuesday. A crane attached to a truck parked on a small barge had slid into the river after the barge collapsed and began to sink, Chattanooga Fire Department spokeswoman Lindsey Rogers said. There were no injuries.
The truck leaked oil, triggering a response from environmental cleanup company HEPACO, the fire department, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Chattanooga Public Works. Fire department personnel were unsure how much oil spilled but said it had been largely contained and wasn't a threat to the public.
"Those contaminants — the oil and the machinery — we do not want that to spread any further into the beautiful riverfront here in Chattanooga," Rogers said. "We have been working very hard to get that under control here."
Owner Tony Carter was on scene Tuesday but asked the fire department to make all media outlets leave the scene and did not wish to comment on the issue, according to a fire department official. A company representative hung up when a Times Free Press reporter called for information.
The incident comes three years after a barge flipped over at the same dock, dumping the truck and its crane into the river, spilling oil.
The property and dock are owned by Wingfield Scale. The company had hired Carter's Dayton, Tennessee,-based construction company, Crystal Springs Builders, for dock repair work in 2016. He completed the work. However, he left the barge docked at the location after he largely stepped away from his career to care for his ailing wife, according to Wingfield Scale owner Joseph Wingfield.
Wingfield owners called Carter as recently as last week to remove the barge and truck, he said.
"It had been there for an extended period of time," Wingfield said. "We had been sympathetic because his life has really been in a difficult place from a standpoint of his wife's health. He is her full-time caretaker, but I did call him and told him it needed to be gone. It didn't look good."
Carter came to do the work Friday but some of his equipment failed; he was unable to remove the equipment, according to Wingfield. It began to sink sometime between Friday and Tuesday morning.
The incident comes four years after a Crystal Springs Builders truck had its barge and boom truck sink to the bottom of Harrison Bay, resulting in minor damage to park property.
Tuesday's incident happened across from a busy day on the Tennessee Riverfront. The Southern Belle Riverboat navigated the river during the muggy afternoon. It chimed its upbeat tunes and honked its horn to the scores of visitors on the riverfront touring a World War II battleship. The USS LST-325, which was used in the 1944 D-Day Invasion, was docked for its final day in Chattanooga.
In the background, dozens of emergency personnel peered under the surface of the water at the truck now lying beneath the surface.
Someone from a nearby business had called to report the disturbance late that morning. Chattanooga Fire Department responders placed containment booms to keep oil leaking from the truck from spreading down river.
From there, the crew worked to locate the owner and notified the U.S. Coast Guard of the spill.
The first responders' primary goal was to keep the oil from spreading. From there, it was a wait-and-monitor approach until a U.S. Coast Guard group arrived later in the day from Nashville. The cleanup and removal will be the responsibility of the owner and will be monitored by the coast guard.
Citations, violations and enforcement actions for oil spills are typically handled by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The Times Free Press has sent a request to TDEC asking for any citation issued to Carter or his company and whether the department would be investigating this incident.
Correction: A reference to Tony Carter previously identified the owner as "Martin."