Collission and Fire in the Kill Van Kull Channel - Ships Nostalgia

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Collission and Fire in the Kill Van Kull Channel

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Old 7th July 2009, 17:55
Beartracks Beartracks is offline
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Organisation: Other Merchant Fleets
Department: Engineering
Active: 1979 - Present
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 214
Collission and Fire in the Kill Van Kull Channel

I paste this account of the collision and Fire subsequent to the meeting engagement between MT Alva Cape (British) and ST Texaco Massachusetts (American) in the Kill Van Kull Channel New York in 1966. I was in New York at the time raising my Ticket and remember it well. Some body posted a picture today in Ships Nostalgia of the smouldering hulk of Alva Cape (which in my infinite wisdom I cannot find again) and this goad me into an internet search the results of which I'll post here.

Alva Cape MV was a British Motor Tanker of 11,252 tons built in 1953 by Greenock Dockyard Co Greenock for the Alva Steamship Company, London. She was powered by a diesel, single screw, 14 knots manufactured by Scotts SB&E Co., Doxford. Scuttled after a collision in Kill van Kull Channel, New York.
She was involved in a collision with the US tanker TEXACO MASSACHUSETTS on the 16th June 1966 and both ships caught fire. 33 men died in the tragedy involving ALVA CAPE , the TEXACO MASSACHUSETTS, and their escorting tugs, the ESSO VERMONT and LATIN AMERICA.
Once her flames had been subdued she was towed to harbour where 12 days later she blew up during an attempt to unload her volatile cargo of naptha. In this incident a further 4 men were killed.
The authorities decided she should be scuttled and so on the above date she was towed out to a spot 110 miles southeast of New York Harbor where the coastguard cutter USCG SPENCER, pumped shells into her hull until she slipped beneath the waves.

Fiery Tanker Crash At New York

By James Donahue

Errors in judgment by the navigators aboard two tanker ships carrying volatile cargos resulted in a collision, explosion and fire that consumed both tankers, two attending tugs and left 37 sailors dead and more than 20 injured in New York harbor on June 16, 1966.

The fiery accident remains counted even today as among the deadliest shipwrecks in the history of New York Harbor.

The tankers, the British MV Alva Cape was entering the harbor with a cargo of naphtha and was struck amidships on the starboard side by the outgoing American tanker Texaco Massachusetts. The raging explosion and fire that resulted from the crash destroyed not only the tankers but the tugs Latin America and Esso Vermont.

Thirty-four sailors perished during this first explosive event on July 3. Nineteen of them perished on the Alva Cape, eight on the Esso Vermont, three on the Texaco Massachusetts and three on the tug Latin America. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and New York City fire boats worked together to battle the flames and rescue as many sailors as possible from the burning vessels in a place with the ominous name of Kill Van Kull Channel.

The blaze was finally extinguished, but the Alva Cape was not finished as a human death trap. Three more men were killed in yet another explosion while they were aboard the burned out wreck, attempting to unload what remained of its deadly cargo. This happened just 12 days later, bringing the death toll from the accident to 37.

During subsequent litigation and hearings it was learned that the crew of the Texaco Massachusetts worried about a possible collision as the two vessels approached each other in what would have involved a harbor crossing. The larger 604-foot Texaco Massachusetts reversed engines and attempted to back as the 546-foot British tanker approached. It was determined that if the American tanker had maintained its speed and taken no action, it would have safely passed and averted the terrible loss of life and property.

Respectfully submitted;
Hugh Curran aka Beartracks
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