Bayonne, NJ Tanker WILLIAM E. ROCKEFELLER Explosion, Aug 1929



Bayonne, N.J., Aug. 9 (UP) -- One man was killed and seven were known to have been injured in a series of explosions aboard the tanker William E. Rockefeller at Pier 6 of the Standard Oil Company today.
The blasts shook Essex County, New Jersey, broke windows along the New Brighton, Staten Island, water front, and sent hundreds of persons to their telephones in a panic.
The tanker caught fire and poured blazing oil into the Kill Van Kull. The flames spread across the Kill toward Staten Island, and tugs immediately scouted through the inferno picking up the tanker's crew members from the hissing waters.
The dead man was identified as JOHN WARD, watchman for a shipping protective association. He was believed to have been blown from the Rockefeller's deck by the first explosion.
The body of the dead man was floating near the tanker. It was taken to the Bayonne Morgue, the seven injured men, some with broken bones and all of them burned, were picked from the water and rushed ashore at St. George and New Brighton and hurried in ambulances and private cars to Staten Island Hospital.
All seven had jumped from the decks when the first explosion was followed by several other blasts and by belching fire in the forward hold. Fifteen minutes after the first concussion, there was a final puff and roar.
Black smoke rolled in palls from the huge tanker as tugs and the New York City fireboat Zephar Mills sped to the scene. The dark billows flattened out and then settled over Staten Island until it became necessary to turn on lights in the stores and homes there.
The injured were:
VAN KENNEDY, 20, burns on head and body.
ROY DONALD, 22, fractured left forearm and burns on body.
JACK GIEMELLEN, 18, of Baton Rouge, La., burns on legs and back.
LEO HERBERT, 21, of St. Gabriel, La., burns and fracture of bones on head and body.
A. REBERO, 40, of 101 York Street, Jersey City, burns on arms and face.
JOHN BURNS, 62, of Queens Village, Long Island, lacerated scalp and burns on arms.
Police were told that EDWARD HALEY, 20, of Brooklyn, a crew member, was overcome by oil fumes aboard the ship an hour before the explosion. It was presumed the gas which overcame him was ignited later and caused the blasts.
The blast occurred in the tanker's pump and engine room and was felt all over Essex County. The vessel was set afire and the Standard Oil fire department was called. The flames threatened for a time to spread to other ships and to the pier, which is Standard Oil property.
Lines were placed aboard the William Rockefeller and it was towed into midstream, where fireboats poured water into it.
Tugs from nearby piers drew the tanker out through the mouth of the Kill Van Kull and into the upper bay. As she passed St. George, spouting smoke from her forward hatches, thousands of Staten Islanders bound for Manhattan lined the sides of ferries to watch her. The burning boat apparently was headed for the shoal water of the Red Hook Flats, off South Brooklyn.
A dozen tugboats from piers on the Staten Island waterfront joined those towing the damaged ship, and within a few minutes streams of water were pouring on the Rockefeller from all sides.
The William Rockefeller normally carried a crew of 43. Just how many were aboard or escaped the explosion was not determined immediately.
The tanker owned by the Standard Shipping Company of Wilmington, Del., was built at Newport News, Va., in 1921, was 14,052 tons and was 554.9 feet long. Its oil burning engines were capable of 3,800 horsepower.
The tanker arrived from Baton Rouge, La., yesterday with a load of crude oil consigned to R. L. Hague. Most of the oil had been pumped out when the explosion occurred, and the ship was riding high in the water.

Syracuse Herald New York 1929-08-09