Deer Park, TX Tanker Explosion, Sep 1979
OIL TANKER EXPLODES AT DOCK.
Deer Park, Texas (UPI) -- Four men were injured and three others were missing Saturday in an explosion aboard a huge oil tanker docker in the Houston Ship Channel.
Coast Guard Lt. Gil Montoya said the ship, the Chevron Hawaii, was ripped by an explosion about 2:18 p.m. Within seconds, a crude oil tank also caught fire, igniting oil, he said.
"The whole channel itself was engulfed by flame, apparently from (oil) spillage caused by the explosion," Montoya said. The channel is the nation's third busiest port.
Several hours after the first blast, the ship was rocked by a series of secondary explosions that rumbled through different holds and compartments of the vessel. At 5 p.m. the ship was listing at a 45 degree angle as firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.
The 800-foot long tanker, which docked with 110,000 barrels of heavy oil in its holds, was sitting at a Shell Oil Company chemical plant and refinery and unloading its cargo when the explosion occurred during a heavy storm.
Lynn Johnson, a spokeswoman for Shell, speculated that the explosion was caused by lightning. She said at least 50,000 barrels of the heavy oil remained on the ship when the explosion occurred.
Ms. Johnson said four persons suffered minor injuries -- two of them Shell employees and two others who were aboard the ship. Three persons were missing, she said. She said 27 persons were aboard the Chevron Hawaii when the explosion occurred.
"We think it may have been lightning that struck the tanker and caused it to explode," she said.
"It had apparently pulled into our port docks this morning with 110,000 barrels of refinery feed, which is a heavy, distillate-type oil that we put into our catalytic cracker to turn into gasoline and distillates. Basically, it's a heavy oil."
The explosion occurred as tropical storm Elena dropped up to 2 inches of rain an hour on the Texas Gulf coast area and sparked large bursts of lightning.
The spokeswoman said there were about 50,000 barrels of oil remained on the ship at the time of the explosion. She said the storage tank that also caught fire contained an unknown amount of ethyl alcohol.
"We have asked CIMA (Channel Industries Mutual Aid) aid," she said. "They are assigning firefighters
to assist our company fire department. The tanker is still on fire and may burn for some time but there's little danger of it spreading or setting anything else on fire.
"There is some oil that spread out on the channel and it is still burning on the water," she said.
Logansport Pharos Tribune Indiana 1979-09-02
DANIEL BEEMER, 32, Houston.
DAVID STROUT, 28, Houston.
DON WAMPLER, San Francisco.