New York Harbor, NY Tanker Collision, June 1966
TANKERS COLLIDE IN N.Y. HARBOR; 10-STORY HIGH FLAMES KILL 20.
SURVIVORS PLUCKED FROM FIRE.
New York (AP) -- Two tankers collided in New York Harbor Thursday, and were engulfed in flames towering as high as a 10-story building. The Coast Guard said at least 20 seamen perished, with others missing.
Blazing naphtha from one of the ruptured ships spread a sea of fire outside the narrow entrance to Newark Bay. For a time the vessel's entire volatile cargo appeared in danger of exploding and plunging the area into catastrophic disaster.
The naphtha carrying tanker continued to burn into the night, hours after the collision.
A survivor said one of two escorting tugs appeared to explode after the collision, touching off the holocause in the channel between Staten Island and New Jersey. Both tugboats were destroyed.
An estimated 100 men were aboard the tankers and the tugs and there were believed to be at least 70 survivors, with 13 unaccounted for.
"Even the water was afire," an eyewitness ashore reported after the collision between the British tanker Alva Cape and the American oiler Texaco Massachusetts.
ALFONSO COLON, 56, chief pumpman on the Texaco Massachusetts, said his vessel struck the Alva Cape and "cut through them like a knife."
"Then naphtha started to pour out of the Cape," COLON continued. "Nothing serious would have happened but one of our tugs was straining so hard to avoid the accident that it blew up."
"There was a flare of fire out of the engineroom. I ran down to the stern of my ship. I saw the skipper, who told us to abandon ship."
A Coast Guard helicopter used rescue slings and a basket to lift five seamen from the bridge of the Texaco Massachusetts while the flames were at their height. The pilot, Lt. Robert Williams, said the men were all but speechless with terror.
"Only one guy spoke and all he said was,
'Thanks,'" added Williams' crewman, Silvan Shiffman.
The collision occurred in midafternoon and there was no immediate explanation for it. The sky was lightly overcast but visibility was good.
The British tanker bore the brunt of the damage, and was reduced to a hulk of twisted metal. The American ship was less heavily damaged and eventually was towed away.
Silvestro Tursi, 39, owner of a gas station on Staten Island, looked on in horror at the aftermath of the collision, when a series of minor explosions set the two tankers ablaze.
"People were jumping into the water. As they began swimming, flames encircled them. I could see these flashes as they were jumping in," he said.
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