Coast Guard ends search for 2 men in MS River

HICKMAN, AR (KAIT/AP) -The Coast Guard has called off its search for two men who fell into the Mississippi River after a barge overturned and sank earlier this week in northeast Arkansas.

Capt. William Drelling said Thursday that authorities have suspended their search for the men - Juan Nieves and Nicolas Perez - who have been missing since Tuesday afternoon.

Both men fell into the water while the barge was being unloaded near Blytheville at the Kinder Morgan terminal. The Coast Guard says the barge lifted to its right and sank, but why it did so wasn't known.

Kinder Morgan says the men worked for the company through a staffing agency. It says the barge was owned by GATX Corp., leased by Cooper Marine & Timberlands Corp. and operated by American Commercial Lines.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Bill Colclough says the barge was carrying about 700,000 pounds of steel coil and was unloading at an energy company's terminal when it overturned Tuesday.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said Kinder Morgan does not own or operate the barge. The company says it will investigate how the incident happened.

An Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman says a third person was reported on the barge, but escaped to safety before the commercial vessel sank.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.