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SS AMERICAN EAGLE, O.N. 278327; Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on 26 February 1984 and Subsequent Sinking on 27 February 1984 with Multiple Loss of Life

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Marine casualty rept.

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At 1045 February 26, 1984, the American tankship SS AMERICAN EAGLE suffered a major cargo tank explosion while enroute in ballast from Savannah, Georgia to Orange, Texas. The explosion occurred while several crew members were cleaning and gas-freeing the number 3 center cargo tank of the last cargo of gasoline. Although the SS AMERICAN EAGLE suffered major structural damage, the vessel remained afloat until February 27, 1984, when the vessel broke up and the Master ordered the crew to abandon ship. The surviving crew members were rescued by three offshore supply vessels and a Coast Guard helicopter. As a result of the explosion, 3 crewmen lost their lives and 4 were injured. During the abandonment and rescue efforts 2 additional crew members lost their lives and 2 remain missing and are presumed dead also 5 more crew members were injured. The proximate cause of the casualty was the introduction of steam into number 3 center cargo tank through an ungrounded air mover with a plastic sleeve attached. The use of steam resulted in an electrostatic discharge which ignited the hydrocarbon vapors in the number 3 center cargo tank. The Coast Guard has issued warning regarding the use of steam and portable venturi-type blowers in nongas-free atmospheres. This report contains the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation Report and the Action taken by the Commandant to determine the proximate cause of the casualty and provide a response to the recommendations to prevent recurrence.

Subject Categories:

  • Safety Engineering

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