In a raging inferno that swept the mammoth American aircraft-carrier "Constellation" December 19 at Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, at least 50 people lost their lives and 260 were injured.
In a raging inferno that swept the mammoth American aircraft-carrier "Constellation" December 19 at Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, at least 50 people lost their lives and 260 were injured. In the city's gravest ship disaster since 1942 - when the French liner "Normandie" went up in flames - there was doubt that anyone was left alive.
With an abundance of wooden material on board, the 60,000-ton steel vessel burned fiercely despite the frantic efforts of 90 fire-engines and every available fireman in New York. The number of people missing was given as "anything from six to 60".
In a vast cloud of acrid black smoke, tens of thousands of tons of water were poured into the ship, causing a list to starboard of five degrees, and a fear that she might sink. But the list was partially righted when Navy personnel opened the seacocks and flooded the portside tanks.
The next day, firemen still battled on against widespread flames with red-hot plates of the fire-gutted carrier buckling and collapsing around them. Weary rescue teams searched the lower decks seeking any men still trapped aboard.
Some 4,200 construction workers were on board the ship when the fire started after a spark from an acetylene torch fired 500 gallons of paraffin knocked onto the deck by a truck.
Damage to the carrier - among the largest in the world - was estimated at GBP27 million. The "Constellation" is 1,047 feet long and is the latest of the six carriers of the "Forestal" class. Built at a cost of GBP90 million she was due to be commissioned in March 1961.