Ship, ferry collide on Dutch canal: skipper dead

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The skipper of a small barge that collided with a cargo ship on a canal in the central Netherlands on Friday was taken dead from the water hours later, police said.

"Police divers have found a body in the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, at the spot where the barge capsized in a collision" at Nieuwer Ter Aa, northwest of the city of Utrecht, a police statement said.

The body was that of "the skipper of the barge, a 56-year-old man" from nearby Nieuwegein.

The German cargo ship collided with the barge around 7:00 am (0500 GMT) on Friday, prompting a massive search for the skipper of the barge, which is used to ferry bicycles and pedestrians across the canal.

All shipping on the canal was halted while divers and a dredging team searched for anybody who might have fallen overboard. A police helicopter scanned the area with heat sensors and infrared cameras.

The body was found around 3:30 pm and identified an hour later, with police declaring themselves convinced there had been no-one else aboard the barge.

Having initially said it was possible the barge had come loose from its mooring and had been floating unmanned when it was hit, the police later said the skipper had in fact been on board.

"His car was found" near the office from where he worked, and an eyewitness had come forward with a report of events.

The two crew of the cargo ship, two Germans aged 36 and 60, were detained for questioning, "a standard procedure with a deadly accident", the KLPD said.

One of them, the captain, was tested for alcohol "and was found to be sober".

The company that manages the barge for the Dutch government said earlier: "We fear the worst" for the skipper.

"It is unlikely that he will be found," Swets ODV spokesman Leonard van Halst told AFP four hours after the man disappeared.

© 2010 AFP

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