Tanker Disaster Seaman 'Saved Lives of Crew'
John Petty, Shipping Correspondent
The "amazing courage and coolness" of an Indian seaman
was described in London yesterday,
when the investigation begain into an explosion
which destroyed the BP tanker, British Crown, 28,572 tons,
killing 19 men including 12 of the 17 officers.
The inquiry, ordered by the Board of Trade,
is expected to laast a week,
but it is unlikely to establish the cause of the disaster.
There are 10 different possibilities,
and the Wreck Commissioner, Mr. J. F. Willmer, Q.C.
will be asked to consider several recommendations
to improve safety in tankers.
Mr. G. K. Beattie, for the Board of Trade,
said the explosion was on Aug. 20 last year
when the British Crown had nearly completed load 25,500 tons
of curde oil at Umm Said in the Persian Gulf.
Suddenly there was a rending explosion and a terrific fire.
"There was little anyone could do except get off the ship
as soon as possible. The Captain and Chief Officer
had to leap into the sea from the bridge." Mr. Beattie said.
An Indian donkeyman, Abdul Karim Dawood, 44,
went up on the deck from the boiler room,
and saw fire everywhere and his crewmates jumping over the side.
But he went back to the boiler room.
There, he systematically shut down the machinery
to prevent another explosion,
which might have destroyed the boilers,
and killed men already in the sea.
He stood by the engines until they were safe,
then he cut a path with a fire extinguisher to get back on deck.
On the way back, he met an elderly seaman,
Abbass Nooroodeen, 55, who could not swim.
Dawood helped him down a rope
and supported him until Mr. J. M. Easton,
a junior engineer, swam up to help.
The British Crown burned for more than two months
after being beached.
The explosions came five minutes
before loading was to have ended.