Report blames Greek captain

NORFOLK, Virginia (AP) -The Greek captain of a tanker that exploded and sank two years ago violated safety practices by ordering crew members to open empty cargo tanks for cleaning, the US Coast Guard said in a report released yesterday. US Coast Guard investigators blamed a Greek company that managed the ship, Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises, and the senior officers on board, for the disaster. Opening the tanks’ hatches caused highly flammable vapors to escape onto the deck, where the crew of the Bow Mariner was working, according to the report, which the Coast Guard released at a news conference. The vapors mixed with oxygen, increasing the likelihood that an accidental spark could ignite the vapors and lead to an explosion. The Bow Mariner, laden with volatile chemicals, sank about 50 miles off the Virginia coast on February 28, 2004. Twenty-one of the 27 crew members died and Captain Efstratios Kavouras was among the 18 whose bodies were never found. The investigation also found that Kavouras abandoned ship without sending a distress call or trying to save his crew, the report said. The Bow Mariner, a 570-foot (apprx.190-meter), 40,000-ton tanker, was carrying 3.2 million gallons of industrial-grade ethanol, plus 200,000 gallons of fuel oil and 53,000 gallons of diesel oil. Investigators also noted there was poor communication between the ship’s Greek officers and its Filipino crew. Surviving crew were concerned about being fired, chief investigator Jerry Crooks said. Crooks said the survivors told him «the words of the Greeks were like the word of God.»

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