Alameda, CA Tanker JEANNY Explosion, Jan 1957

Tanker Jeanny.jpg



Alameda, Calif. -- Doctors fought to keep critically injured men alive today as three official investigations began in the explosion-fire holocaust that killed nine and injured 45 in yesterday's disaster at Todd Shipyard in Alameda.
Thirty-nine men still were held in Oakland Hospitals, the most seriously injured in the blast that smashed some men to death in below-decks explosions and burned others beyond recognition in the oil-fed fire that followed.
The tragedy carried with it the highest Bay Area explosion casualty list since the 1944 ammuniton blast at Port Chicago.
Nine bodies were removed from boiler compartments deep inside the 10,500-ton tanker SS Jeanny. The 45 injured, some of whom could not be rescued from the inferno for two hours, were sped to Alameda and Oakland hospitals by waiting ambulances after they were carried from the ship by rescuers.
Two hundrd and fifty workmen were aboard the tanker, being refitted to carry oil from the Middle East, when the first explosion ripped the vessel at 3:10 p.m.
Lights went out inside the ship and men were hurled from catwalks by the shuddering blast in pitch darkness.
Fire broke out immediately and the screams of the injured could be heard on deck and at dockside.
Alameda firemen and a crew of hospital corpsmen from nearby Alameda Naval Air Station were on hand within moments. They battled their way aboard ship and under the protective cover of carbon dioxide "foam" descended through a hold into flame and dense smoke.
As firemen groped toward the injured a second blast jarred the heavy ship and sent those aboard reeling. Men called for air and water. Others lay dead knocked against steel bulkheads.
Smoke and flame hampered rescue crews but the injured began staggering forth on deck. A call for "all available ambulances" issued by Alameda police brought 16 vehicles to the dock from throughout the Oakland area.
Shipyard fire apparatus was joined by units from the Naval Air Station and Alameda. The ambulances began speeding the injured to Alameda First Aid Station.
In Oakland, police cleared the Posey Tube and Harrison St. so other injured could be rushed to Highland, Providence, Merritt and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.
Inside the steel compartments the heat became unbearable and rescuers were forced out.
"It was like a nightmare," said Navy Hospitalman Richard Chontos.
"There were men lying around everywhere, on catwalks. We could hear screams and moans even before we got aboard."
The main hold could no longer be used for rescue because of the stubborn oil-fed fire.
Emerging rescuers reported that "many men" were still trapped in the inferno below.
As firemen fought back the flames a crew of shipyard workers used acctylene torches and began cutting through the ship's outside hull a hole two by three feet through the five-eighth-inch-thick steel plate.
It took 40 agonizing minutes, but as the plate broke away at exactly 5 p.m., the rescue resumed. A fire ladder was stretched from the dock five feet across to the hole in the ship's side, near the stern and opposite the boiler compartments, and inside.
Chontos and others scrambled back inside, pulling stretchers with them.
At 5:05 p.m. they found what Chontos called "a stack" of bodies on a catwalk. The body of RAYMOND SOUZA was strapped aboard a stretcher and attached to the cable of a giant crane extended into the hold from above. The stretcher was hoisted from the hold high above the Jeanny's deck and set down gently on dockside.
The rescuers then strapped RUBEN MAYES, JR., to a stretcher. MAYES, alive and conscious but severely burned and with a gaping head wound, had lain among the dead for two hours in the intense heat and smoke of the boiler compartment.
As his stretcher was set down on deck it was rolled to a waiting ambulance and MAYES was sped to a hospital.
He was the last of the injured to be removed. After that, the dead were taken from the ship by crane and through the hole in the hull at five minute intervals.
Throughout this operation, four Coast Guard vessels searched the water on the estuary side of the tanker, looking for possible survivors. Initial reports were that some had been thrown overboard in the first blasts.
The Oakland fireboat "Port of Oakland" responded at the first alarm and stood by. In all 16 ambulances reported at the disaster scene and operated a shuttle service for the dead and injured. Mrs. Wilma Harris, nurse at the shipyard, moved among the injured and acted as dispatcher for the ambulances.
Grizzled shipyard workers manning cranes and torch equipment cried openly. As identification was made of the bodies on the dock some of the men removed their steel work helmets in silent respect.
Each of the bodies hoisted by crane through the air was escorted by a shipyard worker, standing on the edge of the stretcher and holding on to the cable. The operation was swift and silent.
W. K. Ramsey, Navy chief petty officer at the Air Station and also a deputy coroner, had counted six dead by 5:30 p.m. when it was announced from inside the shp that all had been removed.
Smoke still hung over the ship. Spectators still lined the fence 100 yards away.
As the hot metal cooled workmen went deep, inside the ship and began a methodical search for possible other victims. They found three.
At 7 p.m. one of the victims was recovered from the bilge below the engine compartment near the tanker's stern, and at 8:15 p.m. the last two bodies were recovered, also from the bilges. One still remained unidentified today at the Coroner's Office.
The toll of nine dead and 44 injured was enlarged even more by injuries suffered in the heroic rescue operations. AL LESLIE, fire chief of the Todd Shipyard fire crew, suffered burns and face cuts when a
"flashback" of flame caught him below decks. Chontos cut his hand on a raw edge of shorn metal and a second Navy hospitalman, WENDELL BROWN, 18, suffered minor smoke inhalation and exposure from being drenched by water below decks from fire hoses.
Todd Shipyard officials today still were not certain of the cause of the initial explosion, but said sparks may have touched off pockets of oil fumes in the engine room compartments.
Investigators were at work even before the ship's metal cooled. Three men from the State Industrial Safety Commission started their investigation last night and today were interviewing survivors and company officials and probing through the ruins. George A. Sherman of the commission said the investigators will file written reports of their findings and he said it is possible an official hearing will be conducted.
The Coast Guard began its own investigation and convened a casualty investigation board at Coast Guard district headquarters in San Francisco. An Alameda Fire Department investigation was started by Fire Chief Thomas M. Lane and Fire Marshal Waren Aspinwall.
The Port Chicago blast at the Naval Ammunition Depot killed 322 men and involved two ships, a fireboat, a barge, a locomotive and a pier, all of which were destroyed. In 1953 an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company killed 12 workmen. Two sailors were killed and five others injured in an explosion on the submarine Pomodon at Hunters Point Feb. 20, 1955.
Deep sea divers worked late last night and early today in 40 feet of water in a precautionary search off the side of the tanker, seeking any other victims who may have been knocked overboard. None was found.

Eight of the nine men killed in the explosions and fire aboard the tanker Jeanny in Alameda yeserday have been identified.
Forty-five others were burned or injured and required hospitalization.
Dead are:
FRANK RAYMOND SOUZA, 44, of Carmichael, Sacramento County.
ELBERT N. PLAYER, 60, of 2077 Juneau St., San Leandro.
ROBERT PATRICK GAINEY, 35, of 225 Bush St., San Francisco.
PETE STANOVICH, 5145 Coronado Ave., Oakland.
HERBERT JOSEPH GAUTHIER, 42, of 676 Santa Ray Ave., Oakland.
MAX JOSEPH GLADSTONE, 59, 411 Vassar Ave., Berkeley.
WILLIAM M. MAAS, JR., 31, of 3334 Herrier St., Oakland.
ROOSEVELT McINTYRE, 53, 345 Chester St., Oakland.
WILLIAM LUTHER EVANS, 70, 631 28th St., Richmond.
FLOYD HARPER, 52, 717 Willow St., Oakland.
Listed as injured by the hospitals to which they were taken are:
Merritt Hospital:
CARL LARSON, 58, a machinist of 537 Central Ave., Alameda, released after treatment for eye injuries.
WILFRED MOLDEN, 40, a welder of 965 70th Ave., Oakland, lacerated foot.
Highland Hospital:
CARL KIRK, 59, of 26145 Huntwood Ave., Hayward.
EUGENE FITCH, 37, of 5012 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, released.
STANLEY MURPHY, 32, of 6463 Oakwood Drive, Oakland. Westinghouse Electric Co. employee who was repair supervisor for steam equipment on the ship, first-degree burns, broken elbow. He has been transferred to Providence Hospital.
CHARLES McNAUGHTON, 57, of 40 Fanning Way, San Francisco, electrical engineer for Westinghouse, serious condition with second-degree burns on face and hands.
MOSES ROGERS, 51, of 3829 Lincoln Ave., Oakland.
ROBERT WILCOX, 47, of 1266 61st St., Emeryville.
LEE KILPATRICK, 46, of 810 Chester St., Oakland.
ROBERT HAWTHORNE, 28, of 1024 Wood St., Oakland.
NORMAN WESTBY, 54, of 1625 Center Ave., Alameda, released.
RUDY BOHME, 50, of 457 Cavour St., Oakland, who has been released.
GEORGE HINKLEY, 34, of 4119 20th St., San Francisco, transferred to French Hospital, San Francisco, in serious condition.
HUBRICH KALE, 30, of 1710 Benton St., Alameda.
JAMES PRATER, 53, of 2779 Mathews St., Berkeley, released.
KURT CARL KAHLERT, 59, of 26145 Huntwood Ave., Hayward.
CHARLES BALLEW, 36, of 1219 76th Ave., Oakland, transferred to Merritt Hospital with head burns.
WELDON COCHRANE, 63, of 485 Schafer Road, Hayward, transferred to Merritt Hospital with fractured right arm and ribs.
SAM G. ROBERTS, 67, of 1107 Franklin St., San Francisco.
Providence Hospital:
JOHN HENRY ALLISON, 41, of 536 36th St., Oakland.
OSCAR ASPLIND, 66, of 2402 E. 16th St., Oakland.
BILLIE RAWSON, 32, of 739 Harder Road, Hayward.
JOHN CASEY, 59, of 911 Buchanan St., Albany.
JAMES L. LEWIS, of 1712 Adeline St., Oakland.
CHESTER SMITH, 62, of 1729 Brush St., Oakland.
JAMES ARCHER, 43, of 1264 Eighth St., Oakland, critical.
T. R. MOORE, 43, of 2781 Greenwood Drive, San Pablo.
GLENN CLEAVER, 46, of 1805 Caifornia St., San Pablo.
MARION OLDHAM, 28, of 429-C Eagle Ave., Alameda.
JOHN POLK, 42, of 1076 12th St., Oakland.
HENRY FRIASON, 40, of 2347 E. 20th St., Oakland.
CLOVIS CAMPBELL, 56, of 1211 Pierce Ave., San Leandro.
PHILLIP BRESSELL, 47, of 949 1/2 San Pablo Ave., Albany.
THOMAS CHAPMAN, 44, of 1293 64th Ave., Oakland.
LEO WELCH, 49, of 1237 Bartlett Ave., Hayward.
CLARK TRUEX, 53, of 6021 Adeline St., Oakland.
WILLIE WISE, 36, of 2024 22nd Ave., Oakland, unconscious and critical.
EDDIE COBBS, 875 29th St., Oakland, released.
ELLSWORTH CONWAY, 23070 Maude Ave., Hayward, released.
WILLIE HOWARD, 2191 27th St., Oakland, released.
Kaiser Hospital:
RUBEN MAYES, JR., 29, of 1927 Fairview St., Berkeley, critical condition with head burns and possible skull fracture.
JAMES COLEMAN, 30, of 272 Gibbs St., Alameda, released.
FRANK TUCKER, 35, of 1105 Myrtle St., Oakland, released.
ALBERT STIEF, 51, 4180 Opal St., Oakland, released.
It is also reported that AL LESLIE, chief of the fire department at Todd Shipyard was injured. He suffered burns and a cut lip but apparently did ot require hospitalization.

Oakland Tribune California 1957-01-30