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Accident Report Detail

Marine Accident Brief: Engine Room Fire on Board Towing Vessel Leland Speakes

Executive Summary

​On February 21, 2018, at 0740, the towing vessel Leland Speakes was pushing 21 barges upbound on the Lower Mississippi River when a fire broke out in the engine room at mile 520.6, south of Greenville, Mississippi. The nine crewmembers on board tried to fight the fire but, unable to control it, abandoned the vessel to a skiff dispatched from a Good Samaritan towboat. The abandoned tow drifted 11 miles downriver until another towing vessel pushed it into a sandbar. The fire burned until later that evening before being extinguished by fire response teams and vessels. None of the crewmembers were injured, and no environmental damage was reported. The damage to the Leland Speakes was estimated at $4.5–5 million.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the engine room fire on board the Leland Speakes was a catastrophic failure and crankcase breach of the port main engine resulting from failure of the caps that secured two piston connecting rods to the crankshaft. Contributing to the severity of the fire was the vessel’s lack of a fixed fire-extinguishing system for the engine room and lack of redundant fire pumps.

Accident Location: Greenville , MS USA Lower Mississippi River, mile 520.6, 33°08.06’ N, 091°05.41’ W
Accident Date: 2/21/2018
Accident ID: DCA18FM014

Date Adopted: 5/15/2019
NTSB Number: MAB1910
NTIS Number:  

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