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Female Barge Worker Critically Injured

Colleen Bowen, 48, a worker on a barge owned and operated by Western Contracting of Sioux City, Iowa, was sucked into the engine of a Missouri River tugboat last Thursday night on Dec. 8. The accident left Bowen in a medically induced coma at Creighton University Medical Center.

Investigators told the media that Bowen was shutting off the engine of the tugboat around 5 p.m. when some of her clothing was caught in the machinery.

Bowen suffered critical injuries to her, spine, jaw, lungs, ribs and legs. Bowen’s family also said she has severe burns and abrasions to her stomach, legs and chest.

KETV 7 News in Omaha reports:

Her family said she loved the river and loved working on the barge. In her time with the company, she did boat maintenance, cooked and was a deckhand. Recently, she took classes to learn how to drive the tugboat.

During the rescue, Bellevue firefighters battled the elements, running a quarter of a mile through a field with equipment just to get to the barge.

“We actually tied our ropes to trees to get down the embankment and get up on the barge,” Betts said.

Crews ran over eight barges to get to Bowen trapped in the tugboat. It’s something the rescue crews said they’ve never had to do before.

“It was unique. It was a very unique rescue. It was something that, in my career, I’ve never seen. I’ve never done a river barge-type rescue in the dark in a field in the middle of a snowstorm,” Betts said.

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