Continuing the theme of somewhat obscure Wilmington-related disasters, I bring you the September 25, 1946 explosion and fire aboard the tanker “Bennington,” off the Wilmington coast.
According to Mrs. Julia Morton (if I remember the details correctly from my conversation with her on my visit to Grandfather about a year ago), when Hugh heard about the accident he immediately recruited someone he knew with a plane and flew out with his camera. The resulting images are quite dramatic, with the ocean’s waves visible through the gaping hole in the Bennington’s hull. Mrs. Morton told me that these were among what Hugh considered to be his best work (presumably in terms of photojournalism, rather than art).
The shots may have also been exclusive. Morton apparently sold them to the Associated Press, and the image above (or one very similar) appeared in a New York Times article (“Six Dead Landed After Tanker Fire,” 9/25/1946), which reported somewhat sensationally:
The vessel, owned by the Keystone Tankship Corporation, was rolling in heavy seas about 225 miles off Savannah when the explosion occurred. A member of the crew was blown over the ship’s bridge and died instantly. The forward lookout was burned to death . . . Three of the dead lived for several hours after they were injured.
I’m still unsure about the cause of the explosion, which was unknown at the time of the NYT report. A Google search conducted today yields little information except for some obituaries compiled online for one of the casualties, 22-year old Kenneth Plogger of Greenfield, IL.
Does anyone remember this event, or or know additional details?