The 90-foot tugboat was assisting in steering a barge south along the Hudson, about 25 miles north of New York City, when it struck a construction barge at 5:15 a.m. near the site where a new Tappan Zee Bridge is being constructed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters.
The tugboat, named the Specialist, sank with three people aboard, Cuomo said. One body has been recovered and two crew members remain missing.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Sabrina Laberdesque on Saturday evening said the search will remain suspended until new information is received. The search area was "heavily saturated" by multiple agencies, she said. Officials said making such a decision is difficult.
The tug leaked at least 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel, creating a slick about 100 yards wide and 5 miles long, according to Cuomo.
The 13 workers aboard the barge involved in the bridge construction were not hurt, Cuomo said.
The governor called the crash a "tragic accident."
"We offer our thoughts and prayers to loved ones of the crew members aboard the tugboat," he said in a statement. "The state is actively working with our partners in law enforcement in locating the missing crew members and minimizing environmental damage along the Hudson River."
The cause of the crash is under investigation, state and Coast Guard officials said.
Law enforcement officers were using sonar technology to find the tugboat at the bottom of the river, Cuomo said.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation and a private contractor were working to contain the leaking fuel, the governor said.
Earlier this month, the Coast Guard issued a warning for mariners
in the area of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction, saying that "over a hundred pieces of floating equipment and support vessels" will participate in the project. In addition, there are more than 30 equipment moorings.
The bridge connects New York's Westchester and Rockland counties.
"Mariners are advised to transit the main channel, reduce wake and use extreme caution while transiting the area in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee Bridge, especially during inclement weather and darkness, and pay particular attention to vessel movements," said the notice, dated March 3.
Cuomo said the tugboat "did not come down the middle of a 600-foot-wide U.S. Coast Guard-designated channel" and moved too close to the construction barge.
A representative for the company that owns the tug did not immediately return a request for comment.
It's not the first time a boat has hit a construction barge near the Tappan Zee Bridge with fatal results.
In 2013, a boater was charged with vehicular manslaughter
and criminally negligent homicide after he piloted a 19-foot Stingray powerboat into one of three construction barges that were strapped together near the bridge, hurling a bride-to-be and her fiance's best man into the river, according to an indictment.
Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon were killed.
The boater, JoJo John, who authorities said been drinking and using drugs, received a two-year jail sentence in 2014
after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter.