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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The owner of a tow boat that ran aground Tuesday in Lake Pontchartrain said high waves pushed by a passing storm front broke a line connecting the vessel and a barge it was pushing.
The captain had no choice but to run the vessel — the Todd Michael — onto rocks at the lake's south shore to keep it from sinking, said Todd Eymard of Belle Chasse, La.-based Hugh Eymard Towing Inc.
"They were being tossed all over," Eymard said.
The Coast Guard said two men were hoisted from the tow boat by an MH-65 helicopter while a third man was taken off the barge by a Coast Guard patrol boat.
Eymard said they were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries he described as dehydration and bruises. "Thank God above the injuries were minor," Eymard said.
The barge was not carrying cargo and had been moved to another site by Wednesday morning. Eymard says he is working with the Coast Guard on a plan to salvage the Todd Michael.
The incident happened early Tuesday as a line of violent storms moved through the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast. The storms spawned high waves in Lake Pontchartrain and strong winds that overturned recreational vehicles and trailers at a camper park in Gautier, Miss., about 50 miles to the east. Several injuries were reported there.
Lake Pontchartrain is a shallow brackish lake used mostly by recreational boats and for inshore barge transportation. It connects to the Gulf of Mexico through two narrow passes on its eastern end.
The grounding took place near New Orleans Lakefront Airport, which primarily serves private and charter aircraft.
The site is about seven miles from the heavily trafficked 23.9-mile long causeway that connects the lake's north and south shores, both suburbs of New Orleans.
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