Alva Cape


Collision Scene

Fiery Tanker Crash At New York

By James Donahue

Errors in judgment by the navigators aboard two tanker ships carrying volatile cargos resulted in a collision, explosion and fire that consumed both tankers, two attending tugs and left 37 sailors dead and more than 20 injured in New York harbor on June 16, 1966.

The fiery accident remains counted even today as among the deadliest shipwrecks in the history of New York Harbor.

The tankers, the British MV Alva Cape was entering the harbor with a cargo of naphtha and was struck amidships on the starboard side by the outgoing American tanker Texaco Massachusetts. The raging explosion and fire that resulted from the crash destroyed not only the tankers but the tugs Latin America and Esso Vermont.

Thirty-four sailors perished during this first explosive event on July 3. Nineteen of them perished on the Alva Cape, eight on the Esso Vermont, three on the Texaco Massachusetts and three on the tug Latin America. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and New York City fire boats worked together to battle the flames and rescue as many sailors as possible from the burning vessels in a place with the ominous name of Kill Van Kull Channel.

The blaze was finally extinguished, but the Alva Cape was not finished as a human death trap. Three more men were killed in yet another explosion while they were aboard the burned out wreck, attempting to unload what remained of its deadly cargo. This happened just 12 days later, bringing the death toll from the accident to 37.

During subsequent litigation and hearings it was learned that the crew of the Texaco Massachusetts worried about a possible collision as the two vessels approached each other in what would have involved a harbor crossing. The larger 604-foot Texaco Massachusetts reversed engines and attempted to back as the 546-foot British tanker approached. It was determined that if the American tanker had maintained its speed and taken no action, it would have safely passed and averted the crash.

After the second explosion, the Coast Guard towed the Alva Cape 110 miles out to sea and then shelled the ship until it blew up once again and sank



Burned Hulk Of Alva Cape

Great And Lost Ships Of The World