Destrehan, LA Ferry GEORGE PRINCE Struck by Tanker, Oct 1976
Eight cars were located, but none have been recovered. Authorities were bringing in sonar to locate the others.
Lack of a formal passenger count caused confusion over the death toll. Authorities could only guess how many commuters were aboard the 39-year-old ferryboat that links Destrehan and Luling, La.
The gray and white GEORGE PRINCE had a legal capacity of 35 cars and 140 passengers.
"It was loaded down," said P. J. BREAUD, a chemical plant worker, who was next in line to board the ferry when he was turned back by deckhands. "In the little room where everybody stands to get out of the weather, all you could see was white construction hats."
Officials also were puzzled about the cause of the accident. Coast Guard crews conducted an informal investigation aboard the tanker Wednesday, but released the ship and its crew pending a formal hearing scheduled to begin in New Orleans Friday or Saturday.
Skies were clear at the time of the accident, but temperatures in the low 40s and a 30-mile-per-hour wind stopped passengers from gathering along the rail of the ferryboat to chat as they normally did during the seven-minute ride.
Because the passengers were taking shelter from the cold, many of them probably never heard the tanker sound six warning blasts from its whistle.
"I get chills when I think about it," said Capt. BETTIS R. SCOTT, pilot of a nearby ferry. "People were sleeping in their cars."
"That shap was coming right up and hit right against the wheelhouse and zap .... it's flipped over. Couldn't nobody have had time to grap a life preserver."
The Frosta -- based in Bergen, Norway, and owned by the firm Monwinckles J. Red -- was bound for Baton Rouge under the control of a licensed Mississippi River pilot when it slammed into the ferryboat.
Destrehan, La. (UPI) -- If deckhands aboard the ferryboat GEORGE PRINCE had been a bit more efficient, P. J. BREAUD and his son GWEN might be dead today.
BREAUD and his son were next in line to board the gray and white ferry before dawn Wednesday when deckhands told them the boat was too crowded.
"I was definitely cursing them out," said GWEN. "If they had parked the cars right, I could have got on. Now I'm glad them people didn't park it right."
The BREAUDS watched in the predawn darkness as tyhe boat they tried to board was rammed by a 664-foot Norwegian tanker. The GEORGE PRINCE rolled under the weight of the 22,000 ton vessel and sank in 90 feet of water.
"It looked to me like the bow of the ship hit the ferry in the direct center," said BREAUD. "It just pushed the ferry and you could see the back end of it sinking. Then the lights went out."
P. J. BREAUD said he could see the accident unfolding, but he thought for a moment the ferry may have avoided the collision.
Delta Democrat Times Greenville Mississippi 1976-10-23
Listing of Casualties:
Crew of the GEORGE PRINCE -- all deceased.
EGIDIO AULETTA, pilot, Destrehan.
NELSON EUGENE, SR., deckhand, St. Rose.
DOUGLAS FORD, deckhand, Boutte.
JERRY RANDLE, engineer, New Sarpy.
RONALD WOLFE, deckhand, St. Rose.
Passengers on the GEORGE PRINCE -- deceased.
MARK ABADIE, LaPlace.
HUREST ANDERSON, LaPlace.
GLEN BARRECA, Norco.
JOHN BASSO, Independence.
THOMAS BEASLEY, Destrehan.
ANTHONY BREAUX, LaPlace.
JERRY BROWN, JR., LaPlace.
MARTIN CAMPBELL, Destrehan.
JIM CARTER, SR., Ponchatoula.
HARRY CLEMENT, Tickfaw.
RICHARD COBB, Hammond.
OSCAR DERMODY, Kenner.
DWIGHT DOBSON, Hammond.
MELVIN DRIGHT, JR., Kenner.
HERMAN EUGENE, JR., Garyville.
LENWOOD FENROY, LaPlace.
AL FLEMING, Garyville.
CHARLES FRANK, JR., Metairie.
BENNY FULLER, Metairie.
JIMMY GAST, Destrehan.
ERVIN GEHEGAN, Hammond.
OTIS GEHEGAN, Hammond.
JOHN GOLDSTON, JR., Baton Rouge.
OSCAR GREEN, Ridgeland.
RONNIE HALL, Destrehan.
JOSEPH HARRIS, Tallulah.
PAUL HARRIS, LaPlace.
WILLIE HARRIS, Tallulah.
JOSEPH HASTINGS, JR., Kenner.
HENRY HILLS, JR., Hammond.
LARRY HILLS, Hammond.
HOLLIS HODGES, Cocoa, Florida.
EDGAR HOLMES, Ponchatoula.
JAMES HUGHES, Independence.
TIMOTHY HYMEL, Reserve.
ROBERT JONES, JR., Metairie.
LINDSAY LeBLANC, Norco.
MARY LIGHTSEY, Destrehan.
LONIE MARTS, Kenner.
CHARLES McKEITHEN, Kenner.
JOSEPH MICHELLI, Hammond.
HUBERT MINOR, JR., Kenner.
ROOSEVELT MIXON, Kenner.
ANTHONY MONISTERE, Hammond.
BARRY MOORE, Kenner.
WILLIAM MOORE, New Sarpy.
ROBERT NEWTON, SR., Van Cleave, Mississippi.
JOSEPH NICOLOSI, SR., Hammond.
TERRY NORTON, Kenner.
BENJAMIN PAPE, JR., Ponchatoula.
EDDIE PLAISANCE, JR., Metairie.
LARRY PONTIFF, Kenner.
KEVIN PRITCHETT, Destrehan.
JEFFREY QUARLES, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
DARREL RODRIGUEZ, Ponchatoula.
ELMORE SCHEXNAYDER, LaPlace.
ADOLPH SMITH, SR., Destrehan.
IVORY SMITH, Garyville.
ARTHUR SNYDER, LaPlace.
RICHARD SONGY, SR., Norco.
MICHAEL STEWART, Metairie.
ANITA STADLER, St. Rose.
RAFAEL TOLENTINO, Destrehan.
ANESTASIA WANKO, New Orleans.
MICHAEL WEBRE, Metairie.
JESSIE WHEAT, JR., Hammond.
JOHNNY WILLIAMS, JR., St. Rose.
LEON WILLIAMS, Kenner.
STEVEN WILLIAMSON, Kenner.
EASTMON WILLIE, Ponchatoula.
The ferry George Prince is struck by a ship while crossing the Mississippi River between Destrehan and Luling, Louisiana. Seventy-eight passengers and crew die and only 18 people aboard the ferry survive.
The MV George Prince ferry disaster was a nautical disaster that occurred in the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, United States, on the morning of October 20, 1976. The ferry George Prince was struck by the Norwegian tanker SS Frosta, which was traveling upriver. The collision occurred at mile post 120.8 above Head of Passes, less than three-quarters of a mile from the construction site of the bridge which would replace the ferry seven years later. The ferry was crossing from Destrehan, Louisiana on the East Bank to Luling, Louisiana on the West Bank. Ninety-six passengers and crew were aboard the ferry when it was struck, and seventy-eight perished. This accident is the deadliest ferry disaster in United States history, and remains the largest loss of life on board a maritime vessel in U.S. waters since the USS Thresher disaster in 1963.