Camp Lejeune, NC (Off Shore) Tanker Blast, Mar 1977


Camp Lejeune, N.C. (AP) -- Survivors of the shattered Panamanian oil tanker Claude Conway said Monday that a welding mishap blew the 43,000 ton vessel apart, killing the captain, the radio operator and eight other crew members.
The U.S. Coast Guard said 27 of the 39 crew members were rescued and 12 remained missing as search and rescue operations continued at the site, 120 miles southeast of this coastal U.S. Marine base.
No bodies were found by late afternoon, and there were no confirmed deaths.
However, several of the 18 injured survivors who were airlifted to a Navy hospital here said an explosion and fire ripped through the ship about 9 a.m. Sunday, killing several of their shipmates instantly -- including the radio operator.
The first "May Day" was not sounded until a second vessel spotted the ship early Monday.
"I was asleep and them 'Boom!' .. and I got under a table. Then the back of the ship broke off," said GUISEPPE ALOTTA, a crew member treated for burns and abrasions.
ALOTTA said welding repairs were underway when sparks apparently touched off gas fumes deep in the tanker's belly.
The Conway was enroute to Freeport, The Bahamas, after unloading most of its cargo of residual fuel oil. However, it still contained some 315,000 gallons of residual fuel oil in its hold and 252,000 gallons of fuel oil for its own boilers when the blast occurred, said Charles Conway of New York, vice-president of Cosmopolitan Shipping Co., owner of the vessel.

The Des Moines Register Iowa 1977-03-22


Claude Conway Disaster

I am the lone U.S. Marine in the photo of Navy Corpsman. The unfortunate victims of the blast were brought to a helicopter pad near the Camp Lejeune Navel Hospital. We transported the victims from the helo pad to the hospital. I was the ambulance driver and under normal circumstances, I would assist the Corpsmen with patients. However, under these circumstances, we were not able to treat the burns on our own. I couldn't understand what the victims were saying, but I could understand their agonising cries for help. This is a memory that haunts me forty years later!

Claude Conway

Mi hermano estaba en el Claude Conway. Es imposible olvidar!