Crude Awakening

The oil Tanker Corinthos is rammed
by the oil Tanker Edgar M. Queeny

From the Delaware County Daily Times, August 6, 1975

Corinthos holocaust likened to Pearl Harbor
by Pat Dalton, Daily Times Staff Writer

Chester - A slide show illustrating the events following the most disastrous U-turn in maritime history highlighted the Chester Rotary Club luncheon, Tuesday, at the Central YMCA.
Robert Sides, Marcus Hook fire chief, who directed all land-based firefighting efforts at the Marcus Hook BP Oil Corp. refinery following the ramming of the oil tanker Corinthos by the chemical tanker Edgar M. Queeny on Jan. 31, outlined the various methods firemen used to bring the baze under control....
"Explosions occurred continually during the 30 minutes," Sides said. "Every man knew that these explosions could devastate the entire area at any time. Yet no company turned and shunned the responsibility. Every man did his job without regard to personal sacrifice."
By 4 a.m. Friday, thanks to a furious effort, the fire was pushed back to the ship. In the meantime, other county fire companies were contacted along with the Philadelphia Fire Dept. and the U.S. Coast Guard. Federal and state environmental agencies were also called to lend guidance.
Sides admitted to the audience that Lady Luck was on the side of the firefighters.
"The tide was up, allowing us to draft water from the Delaware River," said Sides, listing the favorable factors that helped the effort. "It was also fortunate that the wind was not blowing inland, or at 50 m.p.h, like the night before."
Friday afternoon it was decided tht an application of foam would be used to dampten the intensity of the fire. The idea, at the time, was not to put out the fire but to allow a controlled free-burning to continue in order to rapidly consume the oil stored in the Corinthos.
The foam application led to one of the more heroic acts performed during that event-filled weekend.
Fire Boat 32 of the Philadelphia Fire Dept. was moored to the west edge of the pier at the starboard bow section of the ship. It was feeding four foam lines, manned by about 30 volunteer firemen, who were directing foam at the bow of the crippled tanker.
According to Sides, about 9 p.m. tje ebbing tide dropped below a ruptured plate on the bow section of the ship, releasing an oil flow which ignited and ringed the dock, pier and Fire Boat 32 with flames.
The sudden flash fire left several volunteer firemen trapped out on the dock.
Seeing this, Lieutenant Joseph Tobin commander of Fire Boat 32, ignored the flames and remained at the dock until all the trapped volunteers were evacuated....
After the fire was under control that Sunday, Sides said that a veteran Coast Guard firefighter told him that the Corinthos disaster was the equal of anything he had seen at the Guadacanal or Pearl Harbor.
"The control of the Corinthos disaster and the aversion of the absolute destruction of the BP facility and the town of Marcus Hook," Sides concluded, "are a monumental tribute to the firemen of America, and, in this case, especially those who are volunteers."

Observer-Reporter, February 3, 1975

All images created and produced by Cannonball Press, Brooklyn, NY