The Virginia deadrise Miss Heather is barely visible under the surface after a collision with a pilot boat sunk her in the James River. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Watermen Rescued When Pilot Boat Collides with Deadrise Workboat in James River

A day working the water was suddenly cut short for crew on board two vessels in the James River Tuesday morning.

Photo of the deadrise in better days, courtesy of Allen Holston, Facebook/WORKBOAT LIFE

A 38-foot deadrise workboat and the pilot boat Swift collided near the Newport News Small Boat Harbor just before 8 a.m. Tuesday. The Newport News Fire Department responded with its Marine Incident Response Team and a Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium deployed as well.

Before rescue crews arrived, the crew aboard the Swift rescued two watermen from the sinking deadrise, well known in the waterman community as Miss Heather, a Virginia-built boat that has worked the water for decades.

Both watermen were safe, and the pilot boat brought them back to shore with a Coast Guard escort into the harbor. On land, EMS crews were standing by to evaluate the workboat’s crew, but neither was injured.

The Coast Guard reports that Miss Heather took on water quickly. It wasn’t able to be saved because it was breaking apart and drifting, according to the Newport News Fire Department, who tagged the submerged vessel.

The Coast Guard is coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove the sunken deadrise.

The Coast Guard says the incident is under investigation.

-Meg Walburn Viviano