Information about the tragic explosion and sinking of the Bow Mariner which occurred on February 28, 2004.
On Saturday, February 28, 2004 the Bow Mariner, a 570 foot tanker was southbound off the coast of Virginia when it caught fire, exploded and sank.
The tanker was carrying 3.5 million gallons of ethanol, 48,000 gallons of stored diesel fuel and 193,000 gallons of fuel oil. The vessel was roughly 50 miles east of Chincoteague, Virginia in about 240 feet of water when it sank. Water temperature was around 44 degrees at the time.
A scallop boat Captain described the disaster:
“I was 30 miles north of the Bow Mariner when she blew. I heard the MayDay(s) and about 20 seconds later all the other trawler skippers say “Look at that! The flames are several hundred feet.” then the explosion and the flames were several thousand feet.”
Another scalloper described it this way:
“The sun was setting in the west and from the flames on the Bow Mariner it looked like another sun was rising in the east.”
Six survivors and 3 bodies were initially recovered from the water. The Coast Guard suspended the search for the 18 missing crewmembers from the Bow Mariner at 1 p.m. March 1, 2004. The search had involved more than 80 Coast Guardsmen, including crews from Station Chincoteague, Va., Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., and Elizabeth City, N.C., the 87-foot patrol boats Shearwater and Albacore from Hampton Roads, Va., and six command centers. Crews conducted 30 separate search patterns expending more than 3,500 man hours and covering an area of approximately 70 square miles.
Reports from various government agencies as well as local witnesses described the ethanol to be dissipated and the oil slick to be about 9 miles in length off the coast within days. Favorable weather helped disburse the oil and carry it offshore.
The Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) oil recovery vessel Virginia Responder was dispatched on the scene and recovered approximately 25,000 gallons of an oily water mix about 18 miles from where the vessel sank.
The USCG cooperated with NOAA on the disaster and the NOAA Ship Rude was brought in to survey the wreck with side scan sonar technology. In addition SMIT Salvage was contracted to explore the wreck further and possibly extract chemicals from the vessel.