Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tragedy on the Naknek: tug deckhand perishes in barge accident Wednesday

Spencer Vaughn Brewer, 20, of Seattle was killed after he was crushed between two barges. He was in the water after trying to help unfoul a buoy mooring, witnesses tell police.

KDLG:  A young man died Wednesday after being crushed between two barges in the Naknek River. Spencer Vaughn Brewer, 20, of Seattle was a deckhand with Naknek Barge Lines.

A family friend reacts to Brewer's passing ...

Audio transcript: The Bristol Bay Borough Police conducted an investigation of the accidental death Wednesday. Chief Stan Swetzof interviewed witnesses, and offered a recounting to KDLG news Thursday.

According to the chief, Brewer was on the tug vessel Cross Point, coming back from Egegik. When the tug reached three large barges moored in the mouth of the Naknek River, it 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 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 was he was crushed.

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

Brewer’s family was notified, and his body has been sent in for an autopsy. The Coast Guard and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating, according to BBBPD.

Reach the author at or 907-842-5281.

This article was corrected. Brewer was an employee of Naknek Barge Lines, a subcontractor of Alaska Marine Lines.