Local News

Munitions Ship Fire May Have Been Caused by Fuel Leak

Posted August 10, 2001

— Fuel that leaked onto hot metal may have helped start the fire on an ammunition cargo ship at a military terminal on the Cape Fear River, an investigator said.

Chief Warrant Officer John Gonzales, with the Marine Safety Office, testified Thursday at a hearing into the cause of the July 14 fire on the Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr.

Gonzales said he found the ships vent system partially disassembled. One pipe from a vent chamber led to a heavy fuel oil tank and the valves were open. One deck below the vent chamber was a boiler exhaust pipe that had been scorched.

Other witnesses have said an oil-like substance was splattered over the engine room.

"The exhaust stack may have been hot enough to be an ignition source," Gonzales said.

On cross examination by lawyers from Maersk Line Ltd, which owns the ship, Gonzales said he could not conclusively say a leak onto the hot stack caused the fire.

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