After tragedy, Vicksburg community rallies around Collins’ family

Published 9:15 am Friday, December 30, 2016

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, a local man went missing after the dump truck he was driving plunged into the Mississippi River. For 11 days, Stan Collins scoured the massive body of water from Vicksburg to Natchez claiming he would not give up until his 22-year-old son Michael was home.

“This river is called Old Man River, but it’s got an old man on top of it. It’s going to be two old men duking it out — Old Man River and Old Man Stan.”

At about 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, Collins’ search came to an end when a crew from Riverside Construction, using a crane that was mounted on a barge, was removing some debris from the site and the body surfaced.

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Michael Collins, who had been employed by Riverside Construction Co., was waiting on an incline at a spot on the riverbank west of the levee on the Florida Marine property, when the accident occurred. Michael had been moving lime rock dredged from the river to another site on the Florida Marine property when his truck rolled into the Mississippi River.

His death, and the enduring search for his body, was one of the most followed stories of 2016.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said boats from his office searched the river until after dark on the day of the accident and returned to the river at first light to resume the search.

Ergon Marine deployed its riverboats soon after the accident was reported and began the surface search at the sheriff’s office’s request.

Although witnesses said the driver was still in the truck when it went in, commercial divers brought in by Riverside did not find Collins when they discovered the truck under the barge, Riverside vice president Don Miller said.

The truck was pulled from the water and was examined by Vicksburg police and Occupational Safety Health and Administration officials.

Every day following the incident, Stan Collins, was out on the water scouring the mighty river and its banks, looking for his firstborn.

Collins vowed to keep searching until his boy was found, and was able to keep that promise.

To aid in his search, Collins used boats borrowed from friends, and on the Monday following the accident, he drove down the river to Natchez hoping for some evidence of his son. He found nothing.

On Tuesday, Collins was back in the waters around Vicksburg, and driving by the site of the accident, he pointed out the company had made some changes due in part to the accident. Workers were wearing life vests and concrete blocks were placed alongside the incline, he said.

While in the water he also pointed to a vacant platform barge less than a mile down the river, which is where he thought Michael could be.

His suspicions had been accurate.

Warren County Undersheriff Jeff Riggs, Sheriff’s Investigator Sam Winchester and Pace were on the scene monitoring the search when Collins’ body was found.

“The body had apparently been entrapped under the debris under the water,” Pace said.

Collins response to his son’s body being recovered was one of thankfulness.

“Everything has been a blur and a nightmare, but to tell you the truth, I feel calm and at peace right now,” he said shortly after his son’s body was recovered. “My sweet boy loved his mother more than anything on this earth, and I know he is in heaven in her arms right now.”