Boston, MA Explosion On Aircraft Carrier LEYTE, Oct 1953
PROBE CAUSE OF CARRIER DISASTER.
EXPLOSIONS AND FIRE TAKE 35 LIVES AND INJURE 40 OTHERS.
HUGE AIRCRAFT CARRIER LEYTE BLAST WRECKED.
EXPLOSIONS OCCUR AS SHIP IS TIED UP NEAR SOUTH BOSTON.
Boston, Oct. 17. -- Naval intelligence and the FBI today probed through the wreckage of the huge aircraft carrier LEYTE in search for clues to the cause of the four explosions and fire that took 35 lives and injured 40 other persons.
Because some of the LEYTE'S below-decks compartments, torn by the blasts, could not be thoroughly searched, officials said there was a possibility that more bodies would be found on the ship.
Blackout On Probe.
The Navy clamped on a news blackout as the probe to determine the cause of the disaster began. The possibility of sabotage was not being ruled out, inasmuch as the entire ship had been inspected a short time before the first explosion.
The blasts and flash fires ripped the forward part of the 27,500-ton warship as she lay tied up yesterday afternoon at the South Boston naval shipyard annex.
Official comment was guarded, but naval officers said there appeared to have been nothing aboard the vessel, which was undergoing re-fitting, that could account for the disaster.
So quickly did the smoke and fumes of the fire spread through the ship that the skipper, Capt. THOMAS AHROON of Norfolk, Va., was forced to flee from his cabin by a hatchway because he could not get into the passageway without suffocating.
Physicians and priests who attended the dead and dying in the aircraft LEYTE disaster said today they were of the opinion that a majority of the victims suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Caught Below Decks.
Sailors and civilians were caught far below decks by the explosions and fire. They perished by flame, fumes, concussion and falling bulkheads and some may have drowned when the sprinkler system let loose a torrent.
It was the worst waterfront disaster in Boston's history and the worst peace-time tragedy for the Navy since the destroyer HOBSON was rammed with a loss of 175 lives in the Atlantic on April 26, 1952.
The fire fed on a rich diet of hydraulic fluid mixed with alcohol. Fuel pipe lines were tortured out of shape by concussion.
Every emergency ambulance in Boston and some suburbs was rushed to the scene within minutes after the extent of the disaster became known. The Red Cross appealed for blood donors and poured precious plasma into hospitals and dockside emergency wards to stave off the effects of shock and burns.
U.S.S. Aircraft Carrier LEYTE, victim of a mysterious series of explosions below decks at South Boston Naval Shipyard annex at 3:17 p.m. yesterday, is a veteran of Korean action.
At the time of the blasts there were 1,400 men aboard the vessel, which was in drydock for minor repairs. Her peacetime complement is 2,100 and she usually carries 83 airplanes.
Board Of Inquiry.
The Navy said a board of inquiry would convene Monday on the stricken vessel to determine the cause of the tragedy.
Three bodies were found in the port catapult room and seven others were piiled up in the No. 1 bomb elevator on the port side. The fire set off the ship's sprinkler system and men far below decks were trapped in flooding compartments.
The Navy said a full casualty list would be issued later today. Identification was difficult in many cases, since several of the victims were horribly mutilated in the explosion.
The injured were under treatment at the Chelsea Naval hospital, Carney hospital and Boston City hospital.
New Castle News Pennsylvania 1953-10-17