Pensacola, FL (Off Shore) Battleship MISSOURI Disaster, Apr 1904
MISSOURI TURRET EXPLOSION; 29 DIE.
FIVE OFFICERS KILLED IN DISASTER ON BATTLESHIP.
MAGAZINES WERE FLOODED.
PROTECTED FROM FIRE BY QUICK ACTION OF CAPTAIN COWLES.
PROBABLY SAVED THE SHIP.
ACCIDENT CAUSED DURING TARGET PRACTICE BY THE COMMUNICATION OF A SPARK TO POWDER CHARGE.
Pensacola, Fla., April 13. -- By the explosion of 2,000 pounds of powder in the after twelve-inch turret and the handling room of the battleship Missouri Capt. William S. Cowles, brother-in-law of President Roosevelt, commanding, twenty-nine men were today instantly killed and five injured, of whom two will die. Five of the dead were officers of the battleship.
The Missouri was on the target range with the Texas and Brooklyn at practice about noon, when a charge of powder in the twelve-inch port gun ignited from gases, exploded, and, dropping below, ignited four charges of powder in the handling room, all of which also exploded.
Only one man of the entire turret and handling crew survives.
But for the prompt action of Capt. Cowles in flooding the handling room and magazine with water one of the magazines would probably have exploded and the ship would have been destroyed.
Capt. Cowles, completely overcome by the disaster, referred the reporters to Lieut. Hammer, the ordinance officer. The latter gave out a statement of the explosion and its probable cause.
According to this statement, about noon, after the first pointer of the after twelve-inch piece had fired his string and the second pointer had fired the third shot his string, the charge ignited.
The fourth shot was being loaded and from all indications the first half of the charge had been, and the second section was being rammed home, when gases from the shot previously fired or portions of the cloth cover ignited the powder. The breech was open and a dull thud gave notice of something unusual.
No loud report was made, but flames were seen to leap from every portion of the turret. A few seconds later another explosion, somewhat more fierce, occurred.
This was in the handling room below where 1,800 pounds of powder, or four charges ready to be hoisted above, had ignited.
Fire quarters were sounded, and every man of the ship responded, and the magazine and handling rooms were flooded with water. In less than five seconds after the first explosion two streams of water were being played into the rooms, and when volunteers were called for, every man of the ship responded, eager to go into the turrets and rescue the crew.
Capt. Cowles gave his commands, and but for his presence of mind and that of the officers of the ship, the Missouri would probably have gone down. The second explosion occurred near one of the magazines, and so hot was the fire that the brasswork of the magazine was melted.
Smoke and the fumes of the burned powder made it almost impossible to enter either the turret or handling room, but officers and men, with handkerchiefs over their faces made efforts to rescue the men inside.
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