Brunswick, GA Freighter Hits Bridge, Nov 1972
LOADED FREIGHTER CRASHES INTO BRUNSWICK, GA. BRIDGE.
AT LEAST 5 DEAD, 6 MISSING.
Brunswick, Ga. (AP) -- At least five persons were dead and six more were missing early today after a loaded freighter, the African Neptune, slammed into the side of the Sidney Lanier bridge and plunged a number of cars 80 feet into the Brunswick River.
The ship missed the raised drawspan of the mile-long bridge Tuesday night as it headed out of port behind a swift outbound tide.
A honeymooning couple and relatives of a defeated candidate for sheriff of Glynn County were among the dead, missing and injured.
The crash downed two spans on the south end of the graceful 16-year-old bridge and badly damaged the prow of the freighter.
The ship's crew apparently tried to avert the collision by dropping anchor, but the anchor did not hold. A crew member later told the U.S. Coast Guard there was a steering failure as the freighter headed through the drawspan.
ROSCOE TANNER, drawspan operator, said the freighter missed by several hundred yards and "went plumb through" the bridge's south side.
"It was pitch black," said D. J. MOORE, a mechanical maintenance engineer.
MRS. MARY DONAL, 21, and her new husband, ALBERT DONAL, 36, of Roslyn, Pa., were just returning from a 10-day honeymoon in Florida when their car stopped behind a line of cars on the bridge.
She said her husband got out of the car and went to the bridge rail to see what was wrong. He was walking back when the "bridge fell out from under us."
"I can't swim," MRS. DONAL said. "I was trapped in the car a couple of minutes. I got out. The window was open on the driver's side. I guess I was treading water. I don't know."
"All I heard was a lot of crashing, a lot of screaming."
She said someone from a boat threw a life preserver to her and hauled her aboard after about a half hour in the water. She thought her husband had been killed, but when she got to the emergency room at Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital she found him only a few feet away.
DONAL was admitted for treatment of a slight concussion, abrasions and bruises and his wife was admitted for treatment of trauma and aspiration of water. They were both reported in good condition.
On the bridge, which is part of U.S. 17, an off-duty policeman, B. J. CHANCELOR, who saw the smashup ran over and began waving other cars to a halt.
Darkness hampered initial rescue efforts, but helicopters and divers were called into help local rescue units. BOB SAPP, vice chairman of the Brunswick Port Authority, said "tugs, shrimpboats, ambulances, anything we can get" were aiding in the search.
Gov. JIMMY CARTER flew into Brunswick late Tuesday night as the ship was brought to the state docks. CARTER went aboard and talked to the captain who he identified as F. STANEJKO. The ship, loaded with naval stores, is operated by Terrell Lines of New York.
"The captain said he hadn't determined the exact cause of the collision," CARTER said. "It is a terrible thing. The captain feels very badly."
CARTER arrived with state Highway Director BERT LANCE and Public Safety Commissioner RAY POPE after ordering state agencies to give every assistance.
LANCE said about 450 feet of the mile-long bridge fell into the water. He said three 150-foot spans were knocked out.
Aiken Standard South Carolina 1972-11-08
SEARCHERS FAIL TO FIND REST OF BRIDGE VICTIMS.
Brunswick, Ga. (AP) -- Search operations were to resume at daylight today in the swift Brunswick River for six persons missing after a loaded ship slammed into a mile-long bridge, knocking 10-12 cars into the murky water.
Five bodies have been recovered since the Tuesday night tragedy, and TED McKENZIE, a state district engineer helping with rescue efforts, said still Wednesday "there might be more than six bodies down there."
"We just won't know until we can get to the wreckage," he said. "We know there's at least six down there, though, just from what the survivors have told us."
Six Navy divers searched all day Wednesday but failed to find any more bodies. Civil Defense official RALPH KELLY of Savannah said two oil slicks were spotted, indicating the location of cars the divers had been unable to discover. Underwater visibility was reported to be only a few inches.
The slicks were to be investigated today.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was to bring in a barge and crane today to begin removing the rubble of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, three 150-foot sections of which collapsed into the water.
The swiftness of the current in the 40-foot water hampered rescue operations and searchers looked for bodies as far as 13 miles away on the beaches of Jekyll Island.
The U. S. Freighter African Neptune was outbound Tuesday night when it missed the draw span and smashed into the bridge. All of the dead, injured and missing were in cars hurtled into the water by the collision.
Eleven persons were rescued Tuesday night, eight of whom were hospitalized. Many of the survivors lost loved ones.
Apparently, four members of a Waycross, Ga., family perished. Among the dead are MRS. DELIA CROSBY JOHNS, 64, and her grandson, ARTHUR LEWIS JOHNS, 18-months, of Waycross. Missing are KELLY JOHNS, 25, and his 3-year-old son, KELLY, JR.
MRS. KELLY JOHNS, 25, was rescued.
Gov. Jimmy Carter arrived to view the damage before dawn Wednesday and said it would cost more than $1 million and take more than six months to repair the damage.
"When we arrived, the ship was still pushed up against the bridge by the tide and the wind," Carter said.
Aiken Standard South Carolina 1972-11-09