Chaffee man missing after boat collides with barge Wednesday night on Mississippi River

Thursday, August 7, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com The jon boat involved in a wreck last night set on dry land Thursday afternoon as rescue workers continued their search for one of its passengers in the Mississippi River.

Near the docked barges just south of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, rescuers scoured the depths of the Mississippi River on Thursday for the body of a Chaffee, Mo., man who disappeared the night before in a boating accident.

The search for Gregory Jobe, 39, ended around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, assistant Cape Girardeau fire chief Mark Hasheider said. Crews will resume around 7 a.m. today.

Jobe and his brother, Shawn, 41, also of Chaffee, spent nearly every Wednesday night, their night off, fishing from their 12-foot johnboat between the shore and a line of docked barges, said their uncle, Mike Jobe. They usually got off work around 6 p.m. and would take the boat out to spend several hours catfishing.

"They would roam along the bank. They always stayed out of the mainstream," Mike Jobe said.

Only a trolling motor powered the boat, but both men were experienced fishermen, he said.

Around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, the small johnboat ran into trouble when the two men were getting ready to turn around and head south toward Cape La Croix Creek.

One of the barges had drifted toward the shore, blocking their path.

The brothers thought they could motor past the barge by moving upstream and circling the north end of it, but their boat capsized when it struck the vessel and was sucked underneath, Mike Jobe said.

"They barely had time to get a breath," Mike Jobe said.

Shawn Jobe, 41, managed to jam a foot into the space where the two barges were tethered to one another, though he feared his leg would be crushed if they began to drift together. He made a frantic grab for his younger brother, but his foot began to slip from its spot. He was forced to reach for an anchor cord to hold on, or else be carried away by the turbulent water.

He screamed at his brother to stay on his back and not exhaust himself fighting the swiftly moving water, but Gregory did not respond.

He thought his brother had taken in a lot of water under the barge, and his breathing sounded shallow.

"It seemed like he screamed forever," Mike Jobe said Shawn told him of his pleas for help.

Finally, someone heard him, and a crew aboard the Coal Express, another towboat, assisted by the Cape Girardeau Fire Department's water rescue team, found Shawn and pulled him aboard. Shawn suffered minor bumps and bruises from the collision with the barge.

Neither man wore a life vest, and Gregory Jobe was presumed dead as of Thursday night, according to the Missouri Water Patrol.

Some friends of Gregory Jobe's fellow fishermen arrived Thursday morning to be with his family and assist authorities with the search. One of them volunteered to walk the bank from Scott City to Cape Girardeau, searching for signs of his friend.

Gregory Jobe's family gathered with his wife, 15-year-old daughter and Shawn Jobe to wait for updates from the rescue teams.

The two brothers were extremely close, Mike Jobe said.

"He loved to fish," he said of Gregory. "He caught some catfish that were three or four feet long."

The johnboat was found near the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority Thursday morning, scraped up but in one piece. The boat was small enough to balance across the fire department's rescue craft.

Cape Girardeau water rescue teams began the search at 11:55 p.m. Wednesday, broke around 3:30 a.m. Thursday and resumed at 7 a.m., assisted by the Jackson County, Ill. Sheriff's Department, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Water Patrol and Illinois State Police Water Patrol.

Side imaging sonar, according to Capt. Brad Dillow of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, allowed some of the crews to scan the river's depths, 45 feet in areas, for signs of Gregory Jobe's body. The sandy bottom of the river was dragged in several spots because of images picked up by the sonar.

The sonar units, belonging to the Illinois conservation officers, cost about $2,000 each. The fire department had planned on purchasing one this year but the budget didn't allow for it, Dillow said.

Fleet operations were temporarily suspended during the search to prevent barges from moving around and disrupting the search efforts, said Chief Phillip Bradberry of the U.S. Coast Guard in Paducah, Ky.

The accident marked the second time in a week that boaters on the still-high Mississippi have gone missing. On July 30, 52-year-old Harold Smith and 46-year-old Arthur Barton, both of Farmington, were reported missing. Both are presumed drowned.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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