Newport Beach, CA (off shore) Two Destroyers Collide, July 1960
TWO NAVY SHIPS COLLIDE; 8 KILLED.
DESTROYERS RAM IN HEAVY FOG OFF COAST; BOTH BADLY DAMAGED; ONE IN FLAMES.
Newport Beach, July 19 -- (AP) -- One Navy destroyer knifed into the side of another in thick fog off the Southern California coast today, killing eight and injuring 10 more.
The USS Collett ripped into the after port side of the USS Ammen, setting her afire. Seven were killed and seven injured on the Ammen. A fire room and engine room were flooded and she listed heavily. At first she was feared lost but pumps checked the inflooding sea and she was taken in two for nearby Long Beach.
One died and two were injured on the Collett. Its bow was extensively damaged but it was able to head for port under its own power.
What caused it? The Navy couldn't say. Sources in Washington reported that the Ammen was en route to San Diego, south of here, to be deactivated. She had just unloaded equipment at the Navy's nearby Seal Beach net depot.
The Collett was on sea trials after overhaul. Each ship carried a crew of about 250.
Identification of casualties was held up pending notification of next of kin.
The collision happened at 9:44 a.m. seven miles off this harbor town, 30 miles south of Los Angeles. Visibility was about a quarter of a mile.
The swirling, cottony fog, blown by winds that kicked up chop, made rescue efforts chancy until the fog lifted a bit. Rescue ships and helicopters from all nearby armed forces facilities, plus a host of small craft from Newport Beach, swarmed in.
Visibility was so poor at first that neither ships nor copters could contact the stricken destroyers.
A life guard boat made it first, taking a load of eight ashore. Then a helicopter got a load of stretchers. Soon there was a stream of boats heading shoreward.
One of the injured, Ens. G. S. BROWN of Dallas, who suffered facial injuries, said after coming ashore in the first boat:
"It was foggy. I don't know how it happened. It just happened."
He was hustled in an ambulance to Hoag Memorial Hospital before he could say more.
BILL BEELER, reporter-photographer of the Costa Mesa Globe Herald, flew to the crash scene in a small plane and from about 1,000 feet reported this scene:
"The Ammen and Collett were about one-quarter mile apart, separated by a large oil slick."
"The Collett was backing up, apparently to keep water from her smashed bow which was turned sideways."
"There were a cluster of boats in the area, two more Navy destroyers and about four small craft."
"Sailors were on deck of the Ammen and some were getting into the small craft. The Ammen was listing badly to port and her stern was awash. She was not under power, but drifting. A trace of smoke spiraled from her stern and her portside was badly smashed. She was riding quite low in the calm water."
"Drifting on the water were two empty lifeboats, apparently knocked loose in the crash."
An emergency station was set up at the exclusive Balboa Bay Club near the Harbor Department. Other sailors, some only slightly injured, came ashore in the boat shuttle and were threated there.
Oakland Tribune California 1960-07-19
PROBE OPENS IN COLLISION OF NAVY SHIPS.
Newport Beach, July 20 -- (UPI) -- The Navy tried to find out today why two destroyers equipped with radar collided off the fog-shrouded Southern California coast.
A board of inquiry was set up to look into the cause of the collision which took the lives of 11 men aboard the USS Ammen and injured seven others aboard the Ammen and the USS Collett.
Both ships were able to make harbor at Long Beach.
The Ammen ironically was heading to San Diego for retirement into the mothball fleet. Both ships had distinguished records in the Pacific during World War II.
The bow of the Collett sliced midships into the port side of the USS Ammen yesterday at 9:44 a.m. about five miles from the coast and 30 miles southwest of Los Angeles.
A gaping hole was opened about one-third the way back on the Ammen and the bow of the Collett was crumpled back 20 to 30 feet.
Therer had been a foreboding of disaster among some of the 235 sailors and officers aboard the Ammen just before the collision.
"If we collide with another ship in this fog we wouldn't have a chance," seaman ROYCE L. JONES of the Ammen reported a sailor as saying.
Despite quick action by commanders of both ships, the heavy fog had cut visibility to about one-eighth mile and prevented the ships from sighting each other before it was too late to avoid the collision.
Comdr. A. T. FORD, 39, of the Collett, said his forst order when he saw the broadside of the Ammen loom before his craft was to reverse engines and change course.
But is was too late to avoid the crash. The Collett (which also carried 235 men) was estimated unofficially to have been traveling at 17 knots at the time of the collision.
FORD said he did not know if the radar aboard the Collett had picked up the presence of the Ammen.
"We should have, but I don't know if we did," he said.
Comdr. ZAVEN MUKHALIAN, 41, of the Ammen said radar on his craft was working "very well." He said the Ammen's radar picked up the presence of the Collett about a half hour before the collision.
At that time, he said, the Collett was on the starboard side of the Ammen, although when the collision occurred the Collett came in on the Ammen's port side.
"It takes time for the radar man to interpret plots," said MUKHALIAN.
The bow of the Collett gashed out a huge hold in the Ammen's side, exposing her rear engine and fire rooms and leaving them looking like "a junkyard," as one reporter described it.
Oakland Tribune California 1960-07-20