Two men died when a 720-ton freighter, "Straitsman", capsized and sank in the Yarra River near Melbourne on Saturday (23 March).
Two men died when a 720-ton freighter, "Straitsman", capsized and sank in the Yarra River near Melbourne on Saturday (23 March). Marine experts say the freighter, used as a ferry between Melbourne and King Island, may have turned turtle as its cargo of sheep panicked and rushed to one side of the ship. Water poured in through the Straitsman's roll-on roll-off ramp in the stern.
The accident happened at about seven-thirty in the morning, and the freighter was only about two hundred yards (183 metres) from its berth. An officer on another ship saw the "Straitsman" capsize and raised the alarm. Some of the 13 crewmen on board could not swim and grabbed held of struggling sheep to stay afloat. One crew member spent three hours in a tiny airlock in the ship's engine room 400 feet (13 metres) down, before divers were able to rescue him. He is now recovering in a local hospital. One man is missing and another's body was recovered later on Saturday. Rescuers were able to save half the 2,000 sheep on board.
SYNOPSIS: Tragedy struck in Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay on Saturday. Early in the morning, a local ferry, the "Straitsman", capsized. Two of its thirteen-man crew died and half of its cargo of two thousand sheep drowned. The ship turned over only two hundred yards from its berth.
Dead sheep littered the harbour. Local marine experts say the accident may have been caused by the sheep taking freight and rushing to one side of the vessel. This would have increased any existing list, letting water pour through the roll-on roll-off ramp in its stern.
Although the alarm was raised at once by an officer on a nearby ship, one crew member was trapped in an airlock in the engine room for three hours until divers reached him.
He is now recovering in a local hospital. Divers found the body of another crewman on Saturday but the search for the other missing sailor was called off at night-fall. The seven-hundred-and-twenty ton freighter had been used to ferry goods and livestock between King's Island, off the coast of Victoria, and Melbourne.