ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- A barge carrying jet fuel exploded in flames Tuesday after a collision involving the barge, a ship carrying phosphates and a barge carrying diesel fuel, the Coast Guard said. No injuries were reported.
Cmdr. Wayne Tilman said the Coast Guard received a mayday call at 5:50 a.m. that three vessels had collided in Mullet Key Channel adjacent to Egmont Key south of St. Petersburg and that the jet fuel barge was engulfed in flames.
Tilman said no injuries were reported and all crewmen were accounted for.
Crewmen were seen jumping overboard from the vessels. They were rescued by passing vessels.
The fire and its thick black smoke were clearly visible to morning commuters on the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, about 5 miles (8 km) east of the blaze.
Lt. j.g. Jim Holt said the 500-foot (152-meter) burning jet fuel barge, the Ocean 255, carried 255,000 barrels of Jet-A fuel. It was being pushed by the tug Sea Farer.
'It was carrying jet fuel, not gasoline as initially reported,' Holt said.
Holt said the 400-foot (122-meter) ship Balsa 37, which carried phosphates, was taking on water and Coast Guard crewmen were trying to keep the ship afloat.
He said the other barge involved in the collision carried 120,000 barrels of No. 6 diesel fuel and was being pushed by the tug Bouchard.
Holt said some diesel fuel was spilling but it was not burning.
He said Coast Guard crewmen from the cutter Sitkinak and several 41- foot (12.4-meter) utility boats were using foam to try to smother the fire but were having difficulty.
'It's burning itself out, basically,' he said. 'This is not something we can put out real easily.'
He said 11 crewmen from the ships had been taken to the Egmont Key light station. He said he did not know the total number of crewmen aboard the vessels.
'There are no injuries to speak of other than some minor things,' he said. 'At this time everyone is accounted for.'