San Francisco Bay, CA Ship BENEVOLENCE Sinking, Aug 1950
500 SAVED IN SHIP SINKING.
MERCY VESSEL CRASH KILLS 18 IN S. F. BAY.
AMAZING MASS RESCUE MADE WITHIN TWO HOURS IN HEAVY FOG.
San Francisco, Aug. 26. (AP) -- Almost five hundred persons were pulled from the ocean off San Francisco in a remarkable mass rescue after a ship collision last night.
Eighteen were known dead today and there may have been other victims of the chilling waters.
The amazing rescue was made within two hours after the hospital ship Benevolence was rammed and sunk off the entrance to the Golden Gate.
No one was sure exactly how many were aboard the Navy ship when a freighter loomed out of the dense fog and ripped open her side with a grinding crash.
The Navy said as many at 526 persons could have been aboard; that there are 489 known survivors and 18 known dead. That would leave 19 unaccounted for. There were indications, however, that a number who planned to make the trip didn't go.
Visibility was zero as a blinding white fog drifted in from sea.
The outbound freighter, Mary Luckenbach, ripped into the white flank of the hospital ship which was entering the harbor after a trial run. The freighter appeared little damaged. It crept into port during the night.
As the fog lifted this morning the 552-foot hospital ship could be seen lying flat on its side, the lifeboat davits exposed and the giant red crosses shining on the white hull.
Capt. T. R. Wirth, chief of staff of the 12th Naval District, said the Benevolence keeled over within 15 minutes after the collision.
Capt. BARTON E. BACON, 49, skipper of the Benevolence, said at Oakland's Oak Knoll Naval Hospital:
"Capt. LYLE J. HAVENS, a civilian harbor pilot, was piloting. He first said to me, 'I hear a whistle.'
"Capt. HAVENS then ordered full stop and full right rudder -- then the ship appeared. While we were making the turn it hit us."
Dies In Crash.
Capt. HAVENS died in the crash.
Capt. BACON, who floated in a life belt for two hours, said "no order was given to abandon ship.
We didn't think the ship was going to sink."
Capt. Wirth was one of the many officers, men and civilians who labored in the huge rescue effort.
"Thank God," he said, "this ship wasn't returning from Korea. Normally there might have been 1500 patients aboard, maybe even as many as 3000."
Adm. George D. Murray, commander of the Western Sea Frontier, ordered a court of inquiry convened at 8 a.m. today to search out the cause of the accident.
Surviving Navy officers and, presumably, the captain and other crewmen of the freighter Mary Luckenbach will give their versions of how the two vessels came together in the dense fog obscuring the entrance to San Francisco Bay.
Set for War Duty.
The Benevolence, until recently laid up with the reserve fleet at Mare Island Navy Yard, had been pulled out for duty in the Korean war zone. She was on her last shakedown cruise preparatory to entering on duty.
She was just off the Gate, heading in for her Mare Island dock, when the Mary Luckenbach loomed up precipitously out of the thick fog.
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