Report: Pilot in deadly sinking not properly vetted

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Officials say the company that operated a towboat that sank in a deadly 2018 accident near New Orleans failed to adequately check the qualifications of a pilot hired to guide the vessel.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the report Thursday saying that placing an “inadequately vetted” pilot aboard was the “probable cause” of the sinking of the Natalie Jean on the winding lower Mississippi River.

Two crew members died when the boat sank after striking another vessel’s anchor chain on March 12, 2018. Winds and the river current were strong at the time.

The report says the pilot had 35 years of experience — but no experience on the Natalie Jean.

Attorneys for the company, Creole Chief Inc., did not immediately respond to email queries Thursday afternoon.

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