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Two Tugboats Working on Bridge to Akwesasne Capsize in St. Lawrence River

Two tugboats capsized in the St. Lawrence River during work on the Seaway International Bridge connecting the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve.
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Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating a near-tragedy that occurred on June 22, when two tugboats capsized in separate incidents as they each attempted to stabilize a barge in the strong currents of the St. Lawrence River.

The demolition of the Seaway International Bridge in Cornwall, Ontario, could have taken a tragic turn, as workers scrambled to safety or were rescued after being thrown into the water. The barge was carrying a crane involved in the demolition of the bridge, which connects Ontario and the U.S. with the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve that stretches across the U.S.–Canada border and lies in Ontario and Quebec. The tugs, the Lac Manitoba and the LCM 131, capsized at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, according to the website Cornwall Newswatch.

“The tugboat was trying to attach a wire to a pier of the bridge when the boat got caught in the current of the river and slammed into the side of the barge,” CTV News Ottawa reported. “The current quickly started pulling the boat underneath the water.”

"It sucked it (down) right in the front," said Eric Sunday, Mohawk, one of two workers who were thrown into the water, to CTV News. The captain, he added, "tried to give it gas to move it forward, but once it's locked in, there's no chance."

A safety boat plucked Sunday from the water, said CTV News, while emergency crews rescued the second man. Another man was trapped on one of the tugs briefly as it submerged, but was also rescued by emergency crews, stabilized on the barge and taken away by ambulance. Reports said he had broken his ankle.

"It is not known if the occurrences are related," the Transportation Safety Board said in a statement. "The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrences."