Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/617100
21 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings On Easter Sunday in 1969, in the Port of New Orleans, the mighty Mississippi River was swollen with winter snow melt-off. Aboard two different tugs, Captain Chris Rieder studied for his merchant marine license, while Captain Douglas Grubbs was coming aboard for duty and dropping off an Easter meal for his crew. The Incident Suddenly they heard the rapid blast of a ship's whistle as the Union Faith, a cargo freight ship, and a couple of tugs pushing loaded oil barges were an instant from colliding. As both tug captains and their crews looked out onto the river, they witnessed the moment of impact, fames leaping into the early evening sky. The ensuing fre would reach 175 feet into the air and scar the paint on the bottom of the Greater New Orleans Bridge. The burning ship, aflame from bow to stern, as well as the burning oil barges and oil threatened to spread the fre across the New Orleans city wharves, docks, and ships moored along the waterfront. Scores of river pilots, frefghters, marine personnel on tugs, and other marine shoreside support personnel gathered to assist as the disaster unfolded. The Response Captain Douglas Grubbs and his crew aboard the tug Cappy Bisso and Captain Chris Rieder aboard the tug McGrath II repeatedly braved the pools of faming oil, frantically running through swirl- ing fire and dangerous current to res- cue mariners who had jumped from the ship, plucking them from the treacher- ous water. Of the Union Faith's crew of 51 (including the pilot), Grubbs and Rieder ultimately rescued 26 men. The two captains also prevented the burning ship from drifting downriver, saving the wharves and their contents from the potential conflagration. At one point, Captain Grubbs went so far as to shackle his towing hawser into the anchor chains of the Union Faith to prevent the listing, faming ship from drifting further downriver. His attempt couldn't have succeeded without the heroic actions of the Union Faith's river pilot, Captain Kenneth Scarbrough, who was last reported on its bow with the ship's master, drop- ping both anchors as fames from the burning tank barges consumed the bow of the freighter. As the night progressed, Port of New Orleans fireboats fought the oil barge fres, fnally getting them under control by 2 a.m. On the morning of April 7, the Union Faith — still Commendable Acts Honor, respect, and keeping faith with the mariner. by MR. Keith FaWCett U.S. Coast Guard Investigations National Center of Expertise Investigations National Center of Expertise The SS Union Faith on fre in New Orleans Harbor, April 6, 1969. Photo courtesy of the USCG His- torian's Offce.