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Search For Third Victim In Hudson River Tugboat Crash Called Off

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Three people are dead following Saturday's tugboat crash near the Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson River.

The bodies of 62-year-old crew member Paul Amon and 29-year-old Timothy Conklin were pulled from the water. The body of 56-year-old Harry Hernandez has yet to be recovered as authorities were forced to cut off their search due to rough waters and lack of progress.

 

Harry Hernandez
Photo of Harry Hernandez with tugboat that crashed. (credit: CBS2)

Amon's body was found shortly after the morning collision with a stationary construction barge.

The search crews returned to the scene at 10 a.m., CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported. They found the body of Conklin, of Westbury, inside the tugboat around 11:15 a.m.

"He was located in a passeway just inside one of the starboard entryways," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Mark Magrino.

Conklin's brother told Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino the victim had been worried about the trip "because he felt that the currents were very, very strong," Astorino told reporters, including WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reports the tugboat now sits 40 feet underwater, leaking an estimated 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Divers from the state police and NYPD have only been able to go down to the sunken 84-foot vessel during slack tides. The Coast Guard said divers' visibility is about 6 inches and currents are strong.

"Well the conditions are still at this point not great for the divers to go in. There were six inches of visibility. They did take it in to the vessel as much as they could, but it is heavily damaged, and even though there's a body presumed to be in there, still don't know if the body is in the vessel," Astorino said during a press conference.

Until the next slack tide, Astorino said crews will continue a surface search.

The boat owner is now contracting a private company to pull the tugboat from the water.

"We and the entire maritime community, along with the families of the crew grieve the loss of three men doing the work they loved in a tragic marine accident," the owner said in a statement.

Meanwhile, investigators are conducting witness interviews and pulling radio transmissions to find out why the tugboat collided with the barge.

"There are radio transmissions from the tug on the right that said we are too close. We have to move left, but they couldn't move in time, and sometimes it's just that -- just an accident," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Amon's daughter told CBS2 her father died doing what he loved.

"He loved to sail, loved fishing, loved everything to do with the water. He loved his tugboat job. When it was time to go to work, he enjoyed it," Ericka Amon said.

The 21 crew members working on the barge were able to brace themselves and were not injured.

The U.S. Coast Guard and diving specialists fighting the conditions Saturday night had to suspend their efforts to find the missing crew members, as choppy 40-degree waters made it impossible to gain any traction in the search.

"The currents are moving very quickly, so once someone enters the water, the water wants to drag them downstream at a very high rate of speed," Lt. James Luciano of Westchester County's police Special Operations said Saturday.

The crash was the second deadly accident with a construction barge under the Tappan Zee. In July 2013, a boat operator who later confessed to drinking crashed into a dimly lit barge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man.

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