Two dead, one missing in tanker explosion off Galveston

Oct. 10, 1993
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GALVESTON, Texas -- The Houston Ship Channel remained closed Sunday while divers inspected the hull of a 660-foot tanker which exploded, killing two workers and injuring at least 27 others.

Coast Guard spokesman Don Merwin said divers recovered what was believed to be the body of one welder working in the hold of the OMI Charger when the blast rocked the Galveston area.

A second welder was still missing.

DeAnn Armstrong, a spokeswoman for John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, identified the first victim as Milton Williams 53, of Beaumont. She said he was dead on arrival.

Armstrong said four injured people were admitted Saturday night, two of them released Sunday. She added that St. Mary's Hospital admitted six.

Coast Guard Capt. Paul Prokop said the vessel exploded while at anchor near Galveston just after 8 p.m. CDT Saturday. There was a second explosion less than an hour later, and a subsequent fire burned out of control for more than five hours.

The fire was extinguished at 2:30 a.m. CDT Sunday, but Coast Guard officials made the decision to keep the Houston Ship Channel closed while crews maintained a 50-yard secured zone around the stricken tanker.

'The ship channel will remain closed until later this afternoon, when we hope to open it on a one-way trial basis,' Merwin said. Small craft were allowed to use the channel.

He said no pollution was reported, but oil-containing booms were laid in the water to protect nearby wetlands. Booms were also placed around the tanker.

The Coast Guard convened a Board of Inquiry to investigate the accident, with members of the board scheduled to arrive in Galveston Sunday evening.

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