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A First-Hand Account of Tragedy and Heroism on Board the MSC Flaminia [EXCLUSIVE

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BY GCAPTAIN STAFF ON OCTOBER 17, 2012

On July 14, 2012, a fire broke out in cargo hold number 4 of the MSC Flaminia containership while underway in the North Atlantic on a voyage from Charleston, USA to Bremerhaven, Germany, causing a massive explosion. Of the 22 crew members on board, three were killed – one is thought to have been blown overboard, one died shortly after the blast, and a third died from his wounds almost two months later in a hospital in Portugal. Two others were injured.

There were also 2 passengers on board at the time. One was Johnny Rosen, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who, looking for a little bit of adventure and possibly rekindle his maritime past, opted to board the ill-fated containership as a passenger for a ride to Europe. Here is his story:

WARNING: SOME OF THE IMAGES ARE GRAPHIC What day did you leave Charleston?

JR: The Flaminia sailed from Charleston on Saturday, July 7th.

Photo (c) Johnny Rosen, 2012

Photo (c) Johnny Rosen, 2012

What was the trip like prior to the fire and explosion?

JR: Plain sailing! Uneventful.

2012 Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.

one deck below the bridge. The cabin I was in was near the top of the superstructure. I saw smoke billowing upwards from containers stacked on hold # 4. on the port side.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.and I wasn’t a bit happy about it. As I awoke in the “Supercargo” cabin at 5am. and I smelled the nauseating stench of burning plastic. July 14th. 2012 At what time point did the fire break out? JR: The fire started in the wee hours of Saturday. . I had a grandstand seat at the unfolding disaster…. and it faces forward.

and shockingly loud. Bosun. GC: Who was fighting the fire when the blast occurred? JR: Fighting the fire were First Officer. Arnold Nisperos. . myself included) stayed cool. Able Seaman. Ramon Parcon (who appears to have been blown over the side. and Ordinary Seaman. It sounded like a five-hundred-pound bomb on a battlefield. what was the reaction of the crew? Thirty minutes later the alarm was sounded by the Chief Mate over the Tannoy system. Cezary Siuta. Erdito Banate. Oiler. At what point did the blast occur? JR: The big blast occurred at about 8 am on the morning of Saturday. Rolando Gatiera. Crew (and passengers. He instructed all on board were to move to the muster stations. three hours after the fire started. his body was never found). It was very violent. throughout. 2012 Following the fire. July 14th. calm and collected.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.

2012 Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .

was being tossed around directly below a dozen broken and damaged containers teetering dangerously on the edge of the deck. Once on board. helplessly. Captain Langer decided not to launch the port-side boat. Third Mate Remoroza. steered the boat as close to the burning Flaminia as possible to allow Second Officer Thiele Holger. Bjoern Doermann. the lifeboat in which we sat. into a life raft. 2012 How long was it before you boarded the lifeboat? JR: About two hours. and Oiler Bonifacio Bancale to grab a rope ladder and climb back up to the hatch deck to search for First Mate Siuta and missing AB Ramon Parcon.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. then battled to lower the raft down to the choppy water. sixty feet above the water. All this time. were spotted in the sea. Of the two lifeboats. when floating containers that had been blown off the ship. give or take. give or take. at the lifeboat’s helm. only the starboard boat was launched. and the davits to function. after Third Engineer. Holger and Bancale struggled to load seriously burned First Mate Cesary Siuta. directly below. . With Captain Langer in command. forced the stuck brake to release. Then what happened? The lifeboat that was eventually launched at about 10am.

lowering a rescue basket to snatch survivors from the Flaminia’s lifeboat bobbing in the water. The tanker came to within a few hundred yards from the Flaminia and its Russian and Filipino crew immediately sprung into action. It was imperative to keep the lifeboat close to the Flaminia and while trying to avoid crashing against the hull as Holger and Bancale rescued the First Mate. almost magically appeared and our lifeboat then maneuvered toward it. Once Siuta. Credit for his super-human effort goes to Third Engineer Doermann. the DS Crown.000-ton supertanker. which dwarfed the Flaminia. with help from Captain Langer and one gutsy Filipino seaman. Photo (c) Johnny Rosen Shortly thereafter.As the orange lifeboat bashed and bounced against the Flaminia’s hull. a tow-line was used to connect the raft to the lifeboat. using their orange helmets as vomit buckets. a 300. Getting the Flaminia’s badly wounded seafarers into the basket was a brutal job. some of the crew and the other passenger were becoming increasingly sea sick. far below. . who single-handedly made it happen. Bancale and Holger were safely in the raft.

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2012 .Burn Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.

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. Second-Mate Holger had lowered a rope ladder. 2012 JR: From the burning deck of the Flaminia.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. Oiler Bancale had climbed up to the deck. and worked with him to save First Mate Cesary Siuta.

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Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. With terrible burns however. Badly burned Cesary Suita is given oxygen. The blast had so badly burned his lips and his lungs and his mouth. Using their huge white-painted crane like a surgical cherry-picker. Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. Third Engineer Doermann. poor Cesary had less than an hour to live. one and two at a time. . and a Filipino crewmember manhandled us into the rescue basket. Holger and Bancale had managed to bring First Mate Siuta down to the water and had found a way to load him into the life raft even as his life was ebbing away. 2012 In the flimsy liferaft now being towed by our lifeboat to the DS Crown. had struggled to give him as he lay dying on the deck of the DS Crown. who loyally stayed with him. there was no talk nor discussion about the ship which continued to burn among the Flaminia’s survivors. accompanied by Bancale and Holger. the crew of the DS Crown expertly plucked all of us from the top of our rocking and rolling lifeboat with their rescue net. Captain Langer. on the deck of the DS Crown. was First Mate Cesary Siuta. 2012 As First Mate Siuta lay close to death in the liferaft. his charred flesh and skin glued to the raft. nor among the DS Crown’s crew. Shkolnikov and Chernayevskiy. as the boat repeatedly bashed against the DS Crown’s enormous hull. that he could not inhale the oxygen that the Russian officers.

They eventually abandoned their futile efforts and carried him to the DS Crown’s hospital. Nisperos and Banate have now spent two months in the burn unit in Portugal. Gatiera. where he passed away. His very last words. and their prognosis is good.” Words which will haunt all of us forever. Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. Oiler Ramon Gatiera passed on just a week ago. but sadly. and Banate. to us. 2012 . were “I’m dying. who would soon be winched over the side of the DS Crown. and down to the Stella’s rescue boat. The MSC Stella arrived on scene two hours later to evacuate Nisperos. just minutes later.

2012 Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .

Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .

Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .

2012 .Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.

2012 .Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.

2012 Leaving the scene on the DS Crown. Photo (c) Johnny Rosen. 2012 .MSC Stella arrives. Photo (c) Johnny Rosen.