Boat sinks near O’Neal Bridge spilling over 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel into Tennessee River

WAFF 48's D'Quan Lee reporting
Published: Jul. 16, 2023 at 12:02 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2023 at 6:50 AM CDT

FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - A tug boat near the O’Neal Bridge recently sank in the Tennessee River, releasing diesel fuel into the water and the cause for the boat to sink still remains uncertain.

According to the Florence Police Department, the boat spilled between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Fuel began washing up on the beaches surrounding McFarland Park around 10 a.m. on July 16. Further, FPD officers continue to retrieve swimmers at McFarland Park beaches and urge people to stay out of the water until further notice.

Police have shut down the beach area at the park, adding that diesel had already washed onto the shore. Rhett Guiton regularly fishes in the area and says he noticed an immediate difference in the water when he was at McFarland Park on Sunday.

”I honestly knew something was wrong because the color of the water looks different than it usually does,” Guiton says. “Usually when I come out here, I’m catching fish left and right or even getting nibbles of a fish. But today, I haven’t even seen a fish or gotten a nibble.”

WAFF's Jasmyn Cornell reporting

George Grabryan, EMA director for Lauderdale County, says they don’t know what caused the boat to sink.

The focus, for now, is on limiting the damage and cleaning up as much of the fuel as possible. Grabryan says clean-up will be a long process.

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