Investigation reveals 2013 death of deckhand off Burgeo

Brodie Thomas
Published on July 22, 2014

The Western Tugger is shown leaving Gaspé with the barge Arctic Lift 1 in tow in direction of Cap aux Meules with a load of aggregate on the barge this June 4, 2009. — Photo taken from

Details about the death of a tugboat deckhand which happened off the coast of Burgeo in May 2013 are just now coming to light through a Transportation Safety Board investigation.

The Western Tugger had the barge Arctic Lift I under tow on May 10, 2013 when the accident took place.

While under tow, the barge began to list and the master aboard the tug ordered a deckhand to make adjustments to the tow line. According to the TSB’s investigation,  the tow line’s emergency release was not functioning properly, due to a secondary brake on the line.

As the deckhand attempted to adjust the tow line, the barge capsized. Strain on that secondary brake drum caused it to shatter, and pieces struck and killed the deckhand.

The TSB cited many safety problems with the operation, including a tow release that was not capable of being operated immediately, hatches that were not reliably watertight, and cargo that was unsecured.