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Rural Alaska

Seattle tug deckhand dies in Naknek River barge accident

  • Author: Dave Bendinger, KDLG
  • Updated: July 1, 2016
  • Published July 1, 2016

Spencer V. Brewer, 20, died in an accident in the mouth of the Naknek River on Wednesday. (Facebook profile photo courtesy KDLG)

DILLINGHAM — A Seattle man died Wednesday after he was crushed between two barges in the Naknek River in Southwest Alaska.

Spencer Vaughn Brewer, 20, was a deckhand with Naknek Barge Lines.

Bristol Bay Borough Police Chief Stan Swetzof, who interviewed witnesses, said Brewer was on the tug Cross Point, coming back from Egegik. When the tug reached three large barges moored in the mouth of the Naknek River, the crew began helping repair a mooring line that was fouled underneath a buoy.

Unable to push one of the barges far enough back to fix the problem, Brewer and another deckhand climbed aboard the smaller vessel, the Scout, and climbed onto the buoy to attempt to unshackle it. Both were wearing PFDs. The tide was pushing the barge into the buoy, and Brewer was knocked into the water. He was able to hang on to a line for a moment until the force of the outgoing tide sucked him underneath the barge.

Brewer resurfaced between two of the three barges, and found a foothold to try and climb aboard, but those two barges were being pushed together. Witnesses told police it was clear Brewer wouldn't make it up in time, and they told him to get underwater to get out of the way. They say he tried to do so, but his PFD prevented him from escaping harm and he was crushed.

Brewer's body was pulled downriver; he was recovered by the smaller vessel and the crew attempted CPR. Emergency responders met the vessel at the Peter Pan Seafoods plant dock and attempted CPR as well, but Brewer could not be revived.

Brewer's family was notified, and his body has been sent for an autopsy. The U.S. Coast Guard and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating, according to police.

This story has been reprinted with permission from the original at

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