Tugboat Captain Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that Gary O. Burnham, 52, of Michigan City, Ind., was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison for operating as a ship’s captain on a forged license, neglect of duty by a seaman resulting in the sinking of the M/V Margaret Ann, and negligently causing a diesel fuel spill in Lake Michigan. He was also ordered to pay $750,000 in restitution to Holly Marine Towing, the owner of the vessel that sank in Lake Michigan under Burnham’s command.

The sinking of the Margaret Ann caused a 250 gallon diesel spill in navigable waters.

Commander Paul Mehler, III, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago “expects that this will send an important message to the entire marine community.” The privilege to operate and maintain a vessel, whether commercial or recreational, should be taken very seriously by the licensed mariner. The Coast Guard will continue to remain vigilant and ensure the safety of the general public and the environment.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service – Chicago Office, and was prosecuted by the Asst. U.S. Attorney Donald J. Schmid.

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2 Comments

  1. John Rocco Macari says:

    I am writing to congratulate the USCG investigators that brought to light Gary Burnham’s illegal activities. The Chicago Marine Industry needs a wake up call. For almost ten years I have witnessed the declining character of the Chicago marine towing industry. Lack of respect for the USCG and Federal Laws governing the waterways is standard thinking in Chicago’s tug boat community. From the owners of the tugs on down a contempt for legality and safety is cultivated. Let us not think Gary Burnham was just one Bad Employee trying to get one over on his boss. I personally, as a USCG Licensed Captain and Engineer, have been pressured on a routine basis to ignore my legal duties, for the sake of saving time and money. For this reason I have chosen to work outside the marine towing industry. I hope for the sake of the honest South Chicago Tugman that this incident will serve as a catalyst to finally reverse the declining working environment present on area tug boats. Though they might no realize it, the USCG is the best friend the merchant mariner possesses (It wasn’t Holly or Glen who picked Gary and his crew from the 35 degree waters of Lake Michigan.).

  2. michael v naughton says:

    I JUST READ THIS ABOVE HOLLY MARINE IS A GOOD COMPANY THEY JUST GOT ONE BAD APPLE SO KNOW EVERYONE HAS TO PAY HOLLY HAS VERY GOOD REPUTASION AND DAMM GOOD SAILORS CHICAGO TUGING IS HARD WORK RECETIONAL BOATERS ARE MORE OF A PROBLEM