Joe should have had on a life safety vest before he went aboard as required by USCG Coast guard Regulations but he did not and as he went up the ramp to the barge it gave way when the barge moved and he plunged into the river and drowned. His body would be recovered the next day and transported in a solemn procession to coroners office.
From all indications and reports it was nothing more than a tragic accident and lack of proper use of the boarding ramp and poor judgement of Joe not to wear a life vest.
His family sued the fireworks makers and firm which owned the barge I do not know if there was court case or they settled out of court .
Yet to this day rumors have been circulating by old timers with in the fire alarm and fire service community it was no accident . That Joe was set up supposedly because he discovered something which was going to be big news and embarrassing to some very powerful people regarding the then building Renaissance which was going on downtown. Rumors of a safety cover up and short cuts being taken which where never substantiated and Rumors which need to be stopped Because it appears by all investigations including USCG it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident due to improper safety steps not being taken . Despite speculations why Joe did not put on a life vest being a non swimmer. Joe was a good man and does not need his name bantered about and sullied in such a manner .Its time to put the rumors to bed.
Yes boats and barges move all the time on the Allegheny when boats send waves across the river and cause a rocking motion.
and having been on and off plenty of docks, boats and barges I have seen more than my share of poorly maintained set ups to board a boat. Plus some one should have told Joe to put on a vest but lets face it when some one with a badge comes to inspect things you do not give them any guff.
and there may have been no vests provided and little to no supervision of the barges as well all things which may well have leed up to the accident Plus the fact fire dept protocols regarding working around water where not in effect. Several firefighters around the US have lost there lives when it comes to working in and around water ways including one a few years ago near Erie Pa. because good judgement was not followed and lack of protocols If the people you are working with are not watching out for your safety it comes down to you relying on your own I see this time and time again. where fire depts operating at emergency's do things they should not be doing and not even realizing they are doing something wrong because they are so worried for others well being. . If you do not work along the river like I do on occasion and are not aware of the hazards you can very quickly become one of its victims. I have 2 friends who worked the rivers as barge tenders on river boats and both can tell you the dangers barges create even on a calm warm day.
Like the river men say beware of snakes on the deck and thats exactly what they are talking about lines and tools laying out improper boarding planks etc. which can trip and kill you while walking on a deck or plank.