Atlantic City, NJ (Off Shore) Liner And Tanker Collide, Mar 1959


New York (AP) - The Grace Liner SANTA ROSA, bringing home 247 passengers from a happy Caribbean cruise, collided early today with the empty oil tanker VALCHEM off Atlantic City. One tanker crewman was killed and five injured.
No one was injured aboard the cruise ship, which also carried a crew of 265. But a fire broke out in the paint room in the forward part of the vessel. This was kept from spreading but difficulty was encountered in extinguishing it.
Although a number of other ships raced to the scene, neither the Santa Rosa nor the Valchem was said to be in any danger of sinking.
At one point it was said the cruise liner's passengers might be transferred to a sister ship, the Santa Clara, to continue their voyage to New York. Grace line officials said later that this would not be done unless for some reason it should become absolutely necessary.
The Santa Rosa was expected to proceed to New York, arriving in the afternoon. The Velchem was reported disabled and awaiting tugs to take it in tow. The tanker is owned by the Heron Steamship Co.
The Coast Guard said the Santa Rosa's bow sliced half way through the tanker in the engine room section near the stern when the vessels came together at 3 a.m. about 22 miles east of Atlantic City.
The cause of the crash was not immediately reported. The weather was described as clear with a slight haze at the time.
First word came from the Santa Rosa in a radio message at 3:18 a.m.; "Collision with tanker. No distress."
Later reports reiterated that there was no particular emergency, although the Coast Guard said the 10,416-ton Valchem was disabled.
The name of the dead tanker crewman was not learned immediately. He was said to have died of burns. His fellow crewmen were not believed badly hurt.
The 16,000-ton Santa Rosa is a new vessel placed in service by the Grace Line last June, replacing another of the same name.
The paint room fire aboard it was described as "still smoldering" at 6:15 a.m.
Additional chemical fire extinguishers were being flown to the liner by helicopter.
The sister ship, Santa Clara, reached the side of the Santa Rosa at 7 a.m. and stood by. The Santa Clara also was on its way back from a Caribbean cruise.
The Santa Rosa's last stop before the collision was at Port Everglades, Fla. The ship had departed on its cruise from New York on March 13. Skipper of the vessel is Capt. Frank Siwik of Garden City, N.Y.
For some reason not explained at once, the first radio message from the Santa Rosa stated that the liner had been rammed by the tanker. This was changed in later communications.
The two vessels remained locked together for about 2 1/2 hours after the crash, until their captains concluded it was safe to pull apart. The Santa Rosa had a hole in her hull five feet above the water line.
Injured crewmen from the tanker were taken aboard the cruise ship and put in its hospital. Later the most critically injured crewman was put aboard a helicopter for transfer to Atlantic City but was dead on arrival.
The Valchem was en route from New York to the Gulf of Mexico.

The News Tribune Fort Pierce Florida 1959-03-26