A 570-foot tanker carrying industrial ethanol exploded and sank about 50 miles off the coast of Viriginia last night, killing at least three of its 27 crew members, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard continued to search for survivors past midnight with spotlight-equipped helicopters and a C130 airplane, Petty Officer Stacey Pardini said. Seven survivors were plucked from the cold, petroleum-laden waters as of early this morning, but one later died.
The Singapore-flagged Bow Mariner sent a mayday call just after 6 p.m. as it headed from New York to Houston, she said. The ship was offshore from Chincoteague, Va., when it ran into trouble and sank.
"They told the Coast Guard there was a fire and explosion on board," Pardini said. "We don't know where the explosion happened or what." Pardini said, however, there was no reason to believe that the explosion was anything other than an accident.
The Coast Guard was using the helicopters to ferry crew members drenched with contaminants and suffering from hypothermia and burns to hospitals in Maryland and Norfolk, Va. At least two injured people arrived at a staging area at the Ocean City Municipal Airport before being taken to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Md., said Ocean City Emergency Services Dept. Lt. Christopher Shaffer.
Atlantic General spokeswoman Toni Keiser said one crew member and two rescue divers with minor injuries were brought to the hospital. The crew member died, and the divers were treated and released, she said. She declined to give further information.
The Coast Guard also flew six crew members and two of its rescue workers directly to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Va., for treatment, hospital spokeswoman Vicky Gray said. One of the crew members was in critical condition, two were in serious condition and three were in good condition and would be released later this morning, she said.
The crew members were drenched in contaminants, which Gray described as petroleum left in the water as the ship broke apart. Two Coast Guard rescue workers also were being treated there early today for contaminants, and both were in good condition and expected to be released, she said.
Gray said one of the Coast Guard workers was a rescue swimmer; the other, a rescue worker who had become contaminated while helping the surviving crew members inside the helicopter.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.