Boat Captain Richard Palmer draws on his experience to Save Lives

Captain Richard Palmer, a Member of Local Union 1473 in sub 6 District 31, has been maneuvering the waters of the Ohio River since he was nine-years-old when his father, Captain Richard “Dick” Palmer, captained a ferry boat down the Ohio River, between Dilles Bottom, Ohio and Moundsville, West Virginia.

Brother Palmer, a Navy Veteran who has received awards in battle efficiency, humanitarianism and good conduct during his service, is Captain of the Donna Lee, a tugboat owned by the Ohio County Coal Company. It was on the Donna Lee that Palmer was able to prevent a catastrophic collision between barges which were uncontrollably moving toward the dock where Members of Local Union 1473 were working. High waters had caused several barges to break loose and sail directly toward the men working on the coal dock the night of January 13, 2018. His quick action and experience is credited with saving several lives during the event.

“What I saw was nothing less than miraculous,” L.U. 1473 Vice President George Starkey said. “Captain Palmer maneuvered the Donna Lee to keep not only himself safe, but his deck hand and others as well. It was automatic. He saw the problem and immediately reacted. He never hesitated. He took action and saved lives.”

“The main priority for me was to prevent anyone from getting hurt and to save the dock,” Captain Palmer said. “I can’t and won’t take all the credit for what happened. I thank God, my Dad and the Donna Lee that I am still alive and that I have a job that gives me the chance to do what I love.”

“Brother Palmer has been a member of the UMWA since 2009. He is a very skilled river boat captain and a strong supporter of the Union. He risked himself and his boat in order to save the lives of his fellow Brothers and Sisters,” said President Cecil Roberts. “This is commendable and something we should recognize. Watching out for one another is what being a part of a Union is all about. It is about unity and solidarity. He was willing to sacrifice his own personal safety to protect his fellow Union Brothers and Sisters.”

“I am proud to say that Brother Palmer is one of our Members. He loves his job, loves his Union and loves his Brothers and Sisters,” International District 31 Vice President Mike Caputo said. “He has demonstrated his skills as a Captain and his dedication as a Union man.”

Captain Palmer received his Masters Licensure in 1987 and has captained various haul boats for more than thirty years. He started at the Ohio County Coal Company in 2009 and has been the pilot of the Donna Lee ever since.