Luigi Colucciello, 74, captain in Coast Guard, NTSB official

October 12, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Luigi A. Colucciello, a retired Coast Guard captain and a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board who was one of the lead investigators of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, died Oct. 2 from a heart attack at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He was 74.

Mr. Colucciello, 74, of Arnold was considered an expert on marine safety and lectured nationally and internationally on the topic.

As chief of the NTSB's marine accident division, he was a hearing officer at the public hearings on the March 1989 accident of the Exxon Valdez. More than 10 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Prince William Sound near Anchorage, Alaska, after the supertanker ran aground.

At the hearings, witnesses told NTSB members their recollections of the accident.

"He was a hard taskmaster," said Paul Esbensen, a senior marine accident investigator for NTSB. "Everything had to be exact. It had to be done just so. He didn't want it if it wasn't done well."

Mr. Colucciello's duties required him to travel weeks at a time to investigate marine and boating accidents.

"He was very interested in the safety of boats and doing what he could to improve them," said his wife, the former Rose Aulisi, whom he married in 1954. "He took a lot of pride in what he did."

In 1987, he helped write an NTSB report suggesting that cruise ship safety would improve if ventilation systems had devices to prevent smoke from spreading to cabins in a fire.

The report came after more than 1,000 passengers aboard the Emerald Seas cruise ship were evacuated to lifeboats and Coast Guard helicopters when fire broke out on the ship as it was anchored near a Bahamian island in 1986.

Smoke billowed through the ship's ventilation systems for several minutes until a crew member pushed a switch closing off air ducts near the blaze. In the report, Mr. Colucciello said an automatic shut-off switch activated by smoke detectors would have prevented injuries.

"As the result of several accidents, our goal is to stop the spread of smoke, at least at the local fire zone," he wrote.

A native of Fontanarosa, Italy, Mr. Colucciello came to New York as a young man and graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut in 1948. He received a master's degree in naval engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954.

He served in the Coast Guard from 1948 to 1971 and, on his discharge, worked for the NTSB. He retired last year.

Mr. Colucciello was also a volunteer at the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, where for the past 15 summers he taught marine accident investigation to students from Third World countries.

He was a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and the Retired Officers' Association. He enjoyed gardening, carpentry and landscaping.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for 9: 30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, 109 Duke of Gloucester St. in Annapolis.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Michael Colucciello of Chicago and Stephen Colucciello of Charlotte, N.C.; a daughter, Maria Colucciello of Arnold; and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 1948 Endowment Fund, 15 Mohigan Ave., New London, Conn. 06320-4195.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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