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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Frosta, George Prince KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 2
source USCG
type D
volume Y
material B
dead 76
link http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/docs/boards/frosta.pdf

Unusually thorough USCG report. The Frosta a 36,157 ton turbine tanker was upbound in ballast at about 10 kts in the Mississippi River at MM 120.8 favoring the west side. The George Prince was a 120 ft long car ferry traveling from the east bank to the west bank. It was about 0613, visibility 8 miles, wind NNW 13 gusting to 20 kts. River current was about 1.2 mph.

The Frosta pilot expected the ferry to cross behind him giving way to the much larger vessel as was the custom on the river (and elsewhere) despite the fact that by the Rules of the Road, the tanker was burdened.

The Frosta pilot attempted to contact the ferry on VHF, when that failed he started signaling two bells ( he would pass ahead). The ferry did not respond to repeated VHF calls, nor the whistles. Nor did the ferry make any significant course changes.

At about 0614.5 the Frosta went full astern. The pilot did not want to got to starboard becuase he figured the ferry would eventually turn to port. He had little room to go to port, and with the wind gusting to 20 kts on his starboard bow recoverign from a port turn was at best chancy.

At about 0615 the Frosta hit the Prince, midships port side at a nearly 90 degree angle, still going 7 knots. The penetration was 16 feet wide and 8 feet deep despite the fact the ferry was carried upriver by the tanker. The ferry was rolled over to starboard and capsized almost immediately. 76 people including all the ferry crew were killed, 18 passengers on the ferry survived.

Prmary blame was placed on the ferry pilot, who apparently was unaware of the tanker until just before the collision if then. It was cold and the pilot housed was closed up, so the whistle signals may not have been heard. The ferry crew had been on duty since midnight. A half-pint bottle of Seagrams whiskey was found in the ferry's pilot house with an inch of booze still in it. The dead ferry captain's blood alcohol content was 0.09%. Obviously, he had been drinking.

USCG also blamed the Frosta pilot for not going astern as soon as he relaized the George Prince was being non-responsive.


source CTX
type D
volume Y
material B
dead 77
link

The USCG wastes some space talking about the conflict between local customs and the Rules of the Road. CTX thinks it almost certain that this "conflict" has nothing to do with the casualty. Local "custom" was simply universally recognized, common sense. If the ferry captain had knowingly wanted to violate this well-established practice, he knew he had to signal his intention with a VHF call or 1 bell. The ferry captain was tired, probably impaired, possibly asleep.

Strangely, this killer casualty, the worst in the US in the last 50 years, is not in Hooke.