Off Copper Harbor, MI Freighter CARTIER CLIFFE HALL Fire, Jun 1979
FOUR CREWMEN KILLED AS LAKE FREIGHTER BURNS.
Copper Harbor, Mich. (UPI) - A 730-foot Canadian freighter crippled by a flash fire that killed at least four crewmen and injured five others was towed to Thunder Bay, Ontario, today for inspection by marine safety officials.
Two other crew members from the Cartier Cliffe Hall, owned by Hall Shipping of Montreal, had been listed as missing and presumed dead, but Coast Guard officials later said there were conflicting reports on the total number of men aboard when the blaze broke out.
The company that owned the ship said it believed two men remained unaccounted for but the vessel's captain was "reasonably satisfied all aboard have been found," said Coast Guard officials in Cleveland.
"We can only act on what we're told," said Chief Petty Officer Joe Amato at 8th District Coast Guard headquarters. "There's a conflict between numbers. The captain of the ship and the owners believe two different numbers."
A "very thorough inspection" of the ship Tuesday night by a Coast Guard damage control partly turned up the bodies of the four unidentified Canadian crewmen but there was no sign of others, Amato said.
Further searching was suspended while the ship, which was carrying 993,000 bushels of corn, was towed to Thunder Bay.
The Cartier Cliffe Hall was ravaged
early Tuesday as it steamed on Lake Superior about 11 miles north of Copper Harbor.
The fire was so intense it collapsed the stern in a mass of melted steel and caught most of the crew asleep.
"One second all was paradise, the next second, all was disaster," said Second Mate Jim Hancock, the officer in charge when the fire began.
The bodies of two crewmen were found in separate sleeping cabins in the stern, where the fire began. Two others were found in the engine room, said Coast Guard Petty Officer James McInnis.
Nineteen crewmen escaped in lifeboats and were picked up by two freighters. Four of the five injured were flown to the University of Michigan Burn Center in Ann Arbor.
A search party of two Coast Guardsmen and the ship's engineer boarded the ship three hours before the fire burned itself out, but found no immediate sign of two missing men. The Coast Guard said the party could not get into the still smoldering engine room, where the fire was believed to have started.
Ottawa Journal Ontario Canada 1979-06-06