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The Facts of the Disaster and Related Issues

CHAPTER 3 General Introduction to the Disaster


Introduction To assist in an understanding of the evidence relating to the facts of the disaster it is proposed in this Chapter to describe the situation of Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, Gulfs terminal on the Island, and the offshore jetty at which the "Betelgeuse" was berthed when the casualty occurred. An outline of the mode of operations carried on at the terminal, its fire-fighting systems, the position of the tug and other vessels involved in the events of the night of the disaster will then be given, and the duties of Gulfs personnel and their means of communication with one another will then be described. An outline of the layout of the "Betelgeuse" and its method of taking on cargo and ballast will then be given (and a reference made to its sister ship, the "Cassiopce") and the Chapter will end with a description of the weather conditions. It will be appreciated that it will be necessary to consider a number of the topics touched on in this Chapter in much greater detail later in this Report.


Whiddy Island and Bantry Bay On the 24th June, 1966, Cork County Council granted permission under the provisions of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, to Gulf Oil Terminals (Ireland) Ltd. for the construction of an oil terminal at Whiddy Island. Whiddy Island lies at the head of Bantrv Bay which is situated on the south-west coast of Ireland. Bantry Bay, which is entered between Sheep Head and Black Ball Head, about 1\ miles (12.1 km) west-north-westward, extends north-eastward for about 20 miles (32.2 km) to its head. The Bay is easy of access, free from dangers in the fairway, and with scarcely any tidal streams. The holding ground is good but the Bay is exposed to westerly winds. The harbours of Glengarriff £nd Bantry lie at the head of the Bay with Whiddy Island—some three miles (4.8 km) 1 in length—lying in a south-westerly/north-easterly aspect, approximately 2 miles ; (3.2 km) from Bantry and 4 miles (6.4 km) from Glengarriff. The prevailing wind is from the soutb-west and the shore at the head of Bantry Bay between Glengarriff harbour and Whiddy Island is subject to heavy swell. The tidal range at Bantry is approximately 10 feet (3 m) at Spring tides and 9.5 feet (2.6 m) at neap tides. The area of the entire Island is 1,005 acres (406 hectares). It bad at the time of the disaster a population of 63. The map reproduced in Appendix 7, part 1, shows the principal features of Whiddy Island and its position at the head of the Bay. It is to be borne in mind that the Island is not flat, and that an elevation of that part of the Island facing the town of Bantry means that the view of the terminal and the offshore jetty is obscured from anyone on the mainland south and east of the Island. A person travelling along the coast from Bantry town does not get a view of the offshore jetty until in the region of Ballylickey, and the witnesses in that area who saw the disaster were over four miles from the jetty and were looking at the stern of the vessel. Other witnesses who saw the disaster from the northern coast of the Bay had a clear view across the water, and as the tanker was berthed on the north berth their view was _ uninterrupted by the jetty or the superstructure of the centre platform. But again it should f bt remembered that the witnesses on that part of the coast were distances ranging from over two to over three miles from the vessel.


The Oil Terminal The oil terminal is situated at the south-west of Whiddy Island. It comprises a tank farm an other onshore works occupying an area of approximately 120 acres (48.6 hectares). F There are twelve crude oil storage tanks in the tank farm, each capable of holding 80,000 tons (81,280t). In addition there are two tanks for ballast, two for bunker oil and one for diesel oil. The position of the tanks is shown on the map contained in Appendix 7, part 2. The map also shows the position of the power-house, the pump-house, the fire station and warehouse. The position of these buildings has particular relevance as two of the witnesses were in the power-house when they were alerted to the emergency and another stated he had been in the warehouse prior to it. There is a clear view of the offshore jetty as one leaves the power-house and travels down towards the warehouse, but the view of the jetty from the warehouse is obscured by a steep hill which rises between the coastline and the warehouse. On top of the hill is a building described on the map as the "control office". This is a one-storied structure, in the front of which is situated the Control Room with uninterrupted views of the offshore jetty and any ship berthed there. An employee known as a dispatcher, whose duties will be described later in the Chapter, works in the Control Room. It will be readily appreciated that the evidence of the dispatcher on duty on the night of the disaster was of crucial importance for this Inquiry. The Control Room and the dispatcher working in it are frequently referred to as "Gulf Control", On the shore opposite the jetty are the remains of a Bailey bridge. [Witnesses refer to these as the "Bailey Bridge" but in fact there was no connection between.the Island and the offshore jetty. A road leads down from the "control office" to join the road which runs from the warehouse to the small craft harbour known as A scon Jetty. But a simpler and quicker means of access to the control office from the warehouse existed; a flight of steps which could be traversed in a matter of seconds led directly from the vicinity of the road up the hill. The significance of this route to the control office will be considered later in the Report. Ascon Jetty is on the south-western shore of Whiddy Island. This location figures prominently in the narrative of events of the night of the disaster, for a number of reasons. Moored at Ascon Jetty was a vessel known as the "Donemark" which, on the night in question, had a crew of two. Also moored there was a line-boat known as the "Snave". This was also manned on the night of the disaster, and the crews of both these vessels had important evidence to give to the Inquiry- In addition, a security hut was situated at Ascon Jetty and the two security men on duty on the 7th/8th January rested in this hut when nftt on patrol around the Island. The pumps for the fire-fighting system were placed close to one of the piers at Ascon Jetty. These, too, were referred to in the course of the evidence and the significance of their location will be assessed. The offshore jetty Approximately 1,300 feet (396 m) off what is generally referred to as the north shore is an island-type berth. The offshore jetty is some 1,600 feet (488 m) in length and consists basically of centre islandlike structures standing on piles. These grouped together are referred to as "dolphins". On either side of the centre platform are piled structures which provide mooring facilities. These are known as "breasting" dolphins and "mooring" dolphins. Dolphin 1 is the most westerly dolphin (i.e. the dolphin nearest to the open sea) and Dolphin 22 (i.e. the dolphin nearest the head of the Bay) the most easterly. A drawing reproduced in Appendix 7, part 3 shows the layout of the offshore jetty. Particular note should be taken of two locations on the jetty. (a) The centre loading platform. This contained a personnel building, the principal firefighting systems and the Chiksan arms used for loading and unloading cargo.

(b) Dolphin 22. This contained a small hut in which the security officer stayed when not patrolling the jetty. It also contained a telephone kiosk (the property of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs) from which calls direct to the mainland could be made by means of a coin-operated telephone. This dolphin was the means of access to the offshore jetty. All boats bringing personnel to the jetty called to Dolphin 22, and this location figures prominently in the evidence as the "Donemark" called to Dolphin 22 shortly prior to the disaster, and the bodies of some of the crew of the "Betelgeuse" were found on it after the disaster. Positioned on Dolphin 22 (as on Dolphin 1) was an inflatable life-raft. There was no direct physical connection between the offshore jetty and the Island. Ships could be berthed on the north berth or the south berth. At the time of the casualty the "Betelgeuse" was berthed on the north berth, facing in a south-westerly direction (i.e. towards the open sea), with her port side to the offshore jetty. The centre island comprises two platforms. On the upper was situated the personnel building as shown on the drawing. On the lower platform was situated a slop tank into which drainings from the Chiksan arms were pumped. The possibility that the fire on the night of the disaster began in this slop tank or the slop tank pit under it (and not on the ship) is a matter on which a considerable amount of evidence was given which is considered in detail in Chapter 18. On the day before the disaster the "Betelgeuse" was visited by two surveyors acting on behalf of two prospective purchasers of the vessel. Both took photographs of their survey. T w o are reproduced in Appendix 8. Photograph No. 2 in Appendix 8 is a photograph taken by Mr. Stewart (one of the surveyors whose evidence is considered in Chapter 15) of the deck of the "Betelgeuse" and the centre platform of the offshore jetty. Particular attention should be given to the following points in the photograph: (a) The top (second) floor of the personnel building will be seen on the left hand side. (b) Next to it the control tower and the foam monitor on top of it can be observed. It will be noted that the monitor is not pointing in the direction of the deck. (c) Next to the tower will be seen the Chiksan arms. It will be noted that two are connected to the ship, at the ship's manifold. (d) Beside the manifold is the port Samson post of the ship. On the other side of the deck will be seen the starboard Samson post. The riser for the vent pipes from the cargo tanks came up the starboard Samson post. Particular note should be taken of its position vis^-vis the personnel building, as consideration was given to the possibility that flammable vapour from the gas riser might have been ignited in the personnel building, which was pressurised and did not contain flame-proof equipment. (e) Forward of the manifold will be seen the wave-breaker on the ship's deck. One of the fractures in the vessel occurred in the area between the manifold and the wavebreaker; its exact location will be detailed later. One of the explosions in the vessel occurred in the port permanent ballast tank known also as the No. 4(a) wing tank. This is located under the deck, forward of the manifold and aft of the wave-breaker. (f) The gangway between the centre platform and vessel can be seen on the left hand side of the photograph.

1 The operation of the terminal Vessels berthed with the aid of two, three or four tugs, and the lateral speed of approach to the jetty was monitored by a Doppler Docking system on the jetty, information being relayed to the pilot by a VHF walkie-talkie. Larger tankers were usually moored to the north berth.

Line-boats took the first mooring lines to the dolphins, the eyes of which were secured quick-release mooring hooks so designed that one man could trip them in an emergen situation to enable a tanker to move quickly away from the offshore jetty. Connection to the tanker berthed at the offshore jetty was made by means of articulated Chiksan loading arms connected to submarine pipelines which supplied the tank farm. The connection to the ship's manifold was made by means of a reducer attached to the end of the Chiksan arm. There was also a ballast pipeline through which tankers could discharge oily salt water ballast to a special tank ashore, where facilities were available to clean the ballast and return it to any tanker requesting this facility. One of the matters of acute controversy in this Inquiry is the amount of ballast which the tanker took on on the 7th/8th January. It is quite clear, however, that the vessel was ballasted from the sea, and that it took no ballast from the terminal. It is also clear that the vessel had completed unloading itsfirst parcel of Arabian Heavy crude at 18.00 hours on the evening of the 7th January and that when the casualty occurred no transfer operations were taking place. The two Chiksan arms (used to unload the Arabian Heavy crude) had, however, remained connected to the ship's manifold. Bunker oil and diesel oil could also be supplied to a tanker by means of the Chiksan arms. There were push buttons in the Control Room on the Island to activate nitrogen-controlled shut-down valves in the two main submarine crude oil pipe risers to the offshore platform and also in the bunker lines. Whether the dispatcher closet! the shut-down valves, and the effect of the fire on them, are significant features of the evidence which will be considered later in this Report. The fire-fighting system (a) The offshore jetty According to the initial design of the system, the fire-main was under constant pressure by the automatic use of a jockey-pump which was followed by the automatic start-up of the main fire-pump should hydrants be fully opened, causing a drop in pressure. This system, however, was discontinued in the year 1970. As a result, on the night of the disaster the system was not being maintained under constant pressure and before water could be obtained for it thefire-pumps had to be started. Three of these were situated on the Island at the Ascon Jetty. They could be started by the dispatcher in the Control Room. There was a fourth diesel-drivcn stand-by pump at the other end of the tank farm. This alteration to the original design (resulting as it did in the inability of the jetty crew to obtain water for the system without the aid of the dispatcher) was criticised in the course of the evidence. Furthermore, it was suggested that the system, in fact, was never operated by the jetty crew on the night of the disaster and the Tribunal was asked to draw certain conclusions from this fact. Two water/foam monitors were located at the north-east and south-west corners of the centre platform at a height of 55 feet( 16.8 m) above the upper platform. Two additional water/foam monitors were located on raised platforms 30 feet (3 m) above the upper platform. Two hydrant monitors were located on the north-west and south-east hydrants at the centre platform. On the night of the disaster a temporary foam monitor had been installed.
A pre-mix foam installation provided protection for the lower platform.

A water spray system was designed to provide a water-curtain between a ship and the jetty.
According to the system's initial design foam monitors could be remotely controlled by the dispatcher in the Control Room on the Island. But this system was discontinued in 1971 and the system thereafter was operated manually by the crew on the jetty (but they

required, of course, water to be pressurised by the starting of the fire-pumps at Ascon Jetty). Notwithstanding the alteration in the system there was evidence that the dispatcher on the night of the disaster attempted to activate it from the Control Room. The significance of this evidence will be considered in Chapter 6. (b) The onshore system There was a ring fire-main throughout the tank farm. In addition, all floating roof tanks were protected by a dry riser foam system which connected to the fire-main. There were facilities to protect the pump-house, the power-house, the water treatment area, the warehouse, and the Ascon Jetty. There was a fully equipped mobile fire tender and other mobile equipment including a foam trailer injector pump, a foam tender, and a Coventry Climax Pump. In addition there were portable extinguishers and breathing apparatus. The standard of maintenance of some of this equipment was subject to critical evidence in the course of the hearings. These criticisms will be considered later in this Report, 3.7.1 The tugs The tugs used at the terminal were not owned by Gulf, but by a company known as the Bantry Bay Towing Co. Ltd. (an associate of a London-based company) and were supplied under contract to Gulf. In addition to assisting in the berthing and de-berthing of a tanker the tugs were each equipped with two fire-pumps and two foam fire-fighting monitors, and also facilities with which to connect to the fire-mains on the offshore jetty and at Ascon Jetty. They were an important part of the emergency systems available in the event of a fire. Gulfs "Policy and Procedures" Manual provided that two tugs were to be on 24-hour stand-by duty when a tanker of the size of the "Betelgeuse" was berthed at the jetty and to be available "immediately" in the event of an emergency. In fact, on the night of the disaster, one tug only was manned and on stand-by duty. It was moored to a buoy east of Whiddy Point East, a distance of about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) from the jetty and out of sight of it and any tanker berthed there. The position of the mooring buoys is shown on the map in Appendix 7, part 1. The absence of a tug from the vicinity of the "Beltelgeuse" was criticised in the course of the hearings. The evidence' on this aspect of the disaster is considered in Chapter 13. The line-boats and the "Donemark" i The line-boats are used f6r handling tanker lines during mooring and unmooring operations. They were also required to assist in anti-pollution measures. One was required to be on constant duty. On the night of the disaster the duty line-boat was the "Snave" and its crew gave evidence at the hearing. The line-boats are ovvned by Carroll Shipping Co. Ltd. and operate under contract with Gulf. The "Donemark" was a personnel launch owned by Gulf and manned by Gulf employees. It had a capacity for 65 passengers and was a 65 foot (19.8 m), steel, twin-screw vessel. It was used to bring Gulf personnel and visitors to and from the Island and the offshore jetty, and in addition was used as the pilot's launch. It had a crew of two, both of whom gave evidence. They had travelled to the offshore jetty early in the morning of the 8th January and bad then moored at Ascon Jetty. The time they claimed they arrived at the offshore jetty was of considerable importance in corroborating the dispatcher's version of the casualty. Their evidence was, however, severely criticised and it will be considered in detail in Chapter 6. ||9.1 The duties of GulPs personnel on the night o f the disaster fli -} On the offshore
lV 3


The Pollution Control Officer (PCO) was the supervisor for the offshore platform and 33

responsible for all anti-pollution and safety measures in the offshore area. Under P C O there was a jetty foreman, three jetty operators and a Plant Protection Operatl (PPO). The duties of the P C O would require him to be either on the ship or on the centre platform, and it is not possible to state with certainty where he was at commencement of the casualty. It is probable that the PPO was in his shelter on Dolphin 22 at the commencement of the disaster, as he would have been present at Dolphin 22 to! log the arrival of Mr. Harris at the jetty. It is probable that the remainder of the jetty crew were in the personnel building on the centre platform at the commencement of the disaster as there were no transfer operations talcing place and their presence outside on the platform was not required, (b) On the "Betelgeuse" The ship's pilot, an employee of Gulf s, was required to stay on board a tanker when it was berthed at the offshore jetty. A cabin was supplied for him on the vessel. (c) On the Island The dispatcher is in overall charge of operations and communications on the Island. Reporting to him are two pumpmen and two PPOs. He is stationed in the Control Room of the Control building and sits at a large console by means of which he can control transfer operations from the terminal. From his seat at the console he has an unrestricted view of the jetty and a tanker berthed there (both of which would be well illuminated at night). He is a key person in the event pf an emergency. He is required to start the pumps to pressurise the water in the fire-main. He is required to activate the emergency procedures, which would include sounding a siren on the Island and on the offshore jetty, calling the tug-boat, the "Donemark" and the line-boat for assistance, and telephoning the Bantry Exchange to alert a prescribed list of Gulf personnel and mainland emergency services. The Control building comprises a number of rooms. In addition to the Control Room, it has a toilet, a kitchen and a number of offices. The evidence of the dispatcher on duty on the night of 7th/8th January was seriously at variance with that of other eye-witnesses, both as to the time the disaster commenced and how it started. One of the suggestions which the Tribunal has had to consider is that the dispatcher was not in the Control Room at the commencement of the disaster and that his version of events must be rejected. The two pumpmen have duties which bring them to different parts of the terminal including the power-house, the pump-house and the fire-pump room. They were in the power-house when they were alerted to the emergency by the dispatcher. The two PPOs on duty are stationed in the security hut at the entrance to Ascon Jetty, when not patrolling the terminal area. Each P P O would patrol a different route and would clock in by means of time-clocks at fixed points around the tank farm. They had two walkie-talkies but on the night of the disaster one was out of action. The PPO on an inspection tour when the disaster began had no walkie-talkie with him. Where he actually was is a matter of controversy, and it is suggested that his version of the events of the emergency should not be accepted. The other P P O was in the security hut at the time. Whether his walkie-talkie was turned on or not will be considered later in the Report. 3.10.1 Means o f communication at the terminal An elaborate system of communications existed between —Gulf —Gulf —Gulf —Gulf Control Control Control Control and and and and the mainland different parts of the Island the offshore jetty the "Donemark", the line-boat and the tug-boat.

In addition, the ship had available Channel 16 on which to send a distress call in the event of an emergency.

A summary of the radio facilities and of the telephones available at the terminal is given in Appendix 9. From the information given ill Appendix 9 and from other evidence in the case the following points should be particularly noted: (a) If an emergency arose on the jetty or the ship and it the P C O on the jetty or the pilot on the ship called on his walkie-talkie on Channel 90 then —the dispatcher in Gulf Control would not hear the call if he had left the Control Room and did not turn up the amplification; —the pump men would hear the call only if they were in the Land Rover—they would not hear it in the power-house (where, in fact, they were); —the crew of the line-boat, the "Donemark", or the "Snave" would not hear it; —the PPO on tour of inspection would not hear it. The PPO in the security hut would hear it only if he had kept his walkie-talkie on; (b) If an emergency arose on the jetty or the ship and if the P C O telephoned Gulf Control from the jetty the dispatcher would not hear the call if he had left the Control Room. (c) If an emergency arose on the jetty or the ship and if the "Betelgeuse" sent a message on Channel 16 it would not be heard by the dispatcher if he had left the Control Room. It would, however, have been picked up by the M.T, "Bilbao" which was anchored in the mouth of the Bay awaiting instructions to berth at the terminal. It would also have been picked up by the stand-by tug the "Bantry Bay", as it kept Channel 16 open at all times. N o message was picked up by either vessel on the night of the disaster. (d) The emergency telephone in the Control Room was situated on the wall some distance from the telephone at the console. It would be impossible for one person to operate the two telephones simultaneously. This point is of considerable significance when the evidence of the alert of Bantry Exchange comes to be considered. The "Betelgeuse" Relevant particulars of the "Betelgeuse" will be given in detail in Chapter 15. In this Chapter reference will be made to those aspects of the vessel which are of particular relevance to the evideiicp relating to the facts of the disaster. 11,2 A drawing showing tha layout and numbering of the vessel's tanks is reproduced in Appendix 10. > It will be seen that there are eighteen cargo tanks. The tanks at the side of the vessel are referred to as "wing tanks" and those in the centre as "centre tanks". The No. 4 wing tanks were divided into two parts. Originally the forward parts were used exclusively for ballast, but in 1974 they were converted so that they could be used for certain types of cargo. On her last voyage from Ras Tanura no cargo had been put in these tanks, and one of the issues which the Tribunal has to determine is whether or not they were ballasted whilst the ship was at Bantry. These tanks have variously been described as the "permanent ballast tanks" or the " N o . 4 (a) wing tank" (port or starboard as the case may be). In general the abbreviation PBT will be used in this Report to describe them. It should, however, be borne in mind that there are other ballast tanks on the vessel (forward of the No. 1 wing tanks) but these are not relevant to the facts of the disaster. As has already been pointed out, the PBTs are about midships on the vessel. It was just forward of frame 77 (in the PBTs and the No. 4 centre tank) that the vessel broke her back in the disaster. A second rupture of the vessel occurred in way of the No. 6 tanks. It is agreed thai an explosion occurred in the port PBT. Total, in their final submission, expressed loubts to whether such an explosion occurred in the starboard PBT.

On the journey from Ras Tanura the ship had carricd 77,098 metric tonnes of Arab1 Heavy crude and 42,338 metric tonnes of Arabian Light crude. These figures are according to the ship's manifest. A discrepancy arose between the bills of lading and the terminal figures, but this discrepancy was not of significance for the purposes of this Inquiry. It had resolving any dispute that might arise. The Arabian Heavy crude was carried in the No. 1 tanks across, the Nos. 2-5 centre tanks, and the No. 6 tanks across. This parcel was discharged first and unloading was completed by the evening of the 7th January. This meant that there was Arabian Light crude still on board in wing tanks (port and starboard) Nos. 2-5, when the casualty occurred. The vessel's design is a free-flow one and this means that discharging cargo takes place tunnel allows free-flow through the PBTs from the No. 3 wing tanks to the No. 4 cargo / wing tank). Ballasting direct from the sea into the PBTs was possible by means of valves in the bottom of the tanks opening directly to the sea. However, ballasting by this means could only be achieved to sea-level. If further ballast was required the tanks would be "topped up' by use of the deck wash/fire lines. There is no doubt that the "Betelgeuse" took on ballast whilst berthed at the jetty, and that she was ballasting (or had just completed ballasting) at the time of the disaster. One of the issues which has to be determined by the Tribunal is whettfer she was improperly ballasted, as a result of which excessive stresses were set up in the vessel. In this connection it will have to be determined whether ballast was taken into the PBTs on the 7th January. After the discharge of the parcel of Arabian Heavy crude the1 tanks which had contained this cargo could have been ballasted. Sea water is drawn in through sea valves in the pumproom, and then pumped on deck via the cargo pumps and then dropped into Tanks Nos. 2 and 5 from whence the ballast may travel via the bulkhead sluice valves into the other centre tanks. This is the operation that was being carried out when the disaster occurred. What quantities of ballast were taken on and into which tanks are matters which are considered in Chapter 19. For the purpose of considering the evidence relating to the facts of the disaster, it is to be borne in mind that no transfer operations between the ship and the shore were taking place when it occurred, and that it happened at a time of inactivity as far as the jetty crew and the dispatcher at Gulf Control were concerned, 3.12.1 The "Cassiopee" A sister-ship of the "Betelgeuse", the "Cassiopee", had, by an unusual coincidence, arrived at Whiddy Island shortly before the "Betelgeuse" reached Bantry Bay. She left the terminal at 16.30 hours on the afternoon of 6th January and sailed for Formosa where she was broken up for scrap. The Tribunal concluded that it would not assist in ascertaining the condition of the "Betelgeuse" to receive evidence as to the condition of the "Cassiopee" and evidence which was tendered on this subject was accordingly not considered. The "Cassiopee" had, however, taken on ballast whilst at Whiddy Island and evidence on this matter was heard and is considered in Chapter 19. 3.13.1 Conditions on the night o f the 7th/8th January Evidence was given by Mr. E. J. Murphy, meteorologist, as to the weather conditions prevailing on the 7th January, 1979, and the night of the 7th/8th January in Bantry Bay. His evidence was based on an examination of the hourly weather charts and of the records of observations kept at Roche's Point and Valentia Observatory weather stations. It did not purport to be a statement of what conditions actually were in the Bay—rather it was a general picture of weather conditions in the area and an estimate based on the data obtained from the neighbouring weather stations. According to this evidence, there were generally cloudy conditions in the Bay between 16.00 and 24.00 hours, visibility was between 20 km and 30 km and air temperature was

between 6° C and 7° C. On the 8th January from 00.00 hours to 06.00 hours it was partly cloudy; visibility was between 20 km and 25 km and air temperatures were between 6° C and 7° C. The wind from 20.00 hours on the 7th January to 12.00 on the 8th was westerly to south-westerly, force 3 to 4. It was, however, possible to establish from other evidence both the direction of the wind and the state of the sea at the time of the disaster. From photographs taken by one of the eyewitnesses, Frits van Os, it is clear that the wind was coming from a direction west by south, that the wind force was of the order of Force 3 on the Beaufort Scale (i.e. 7—10 knots) and that the night was fine and clear. High tide at the jetty was at approximately 00.30 hours. A number of witnesses heard unusual sounds both in the early evening of the 7th and at the time of the commencement of the casualty. The meteorological evidence leads to the conclusion that it was very unlikely that the sounds heard were those of thunder. The Tribunal sought evidence as to whether or not blasting operations might have been taking place in the vicinity. The evidence of Mr. James Murphy and Sergeant Noel O'Sullivan established that the sounds heard by the witnesses could not have been such operations.

CHAPTER 4 Events of the 6th/7th January

4.1.1 Introduction This Chapter outlines the principal events of the 6th/7th January which are relevant to this Inquiry. A number are of very considerable significance to different issues which are considered in detail in later Chapters. 4.2.1 Saturday, January 6th The "Betelgeuse" had arrived in Bantry Bay at 10.25 hours on Thursday, 4th January, but was unable to berth at the offshore jetty until Saturday, 6th January. The pilot who brought her to the jetty was Captain Daly. He took up duty at 07.30 hours'and went first to the "Cassiopee", a sister ship of the "Betelgeuse" which was then berthed at the jetty. He remained on the "Cassiopee" until approximately 14.00 hours and then travelled out to the "Betelgeuse". He was accompanied by Mr. Ash, the terminal manager. There was no significance in the fact that Mr. Ash accompanied the pilot to the "Betelgeuse"; he went because, as terminal manager, he wished to acquaint himself with all operations at the terminal. When Captain Daly went on board, the wind was from the south-west, force 4 to force 5. It was, he considered, a fresh wind. Before going out to the vessel he had discussed with Captain Kelly, the manager of tug masters, as to which way the ship should be berthed, and it had been decided that it would be berthed facing west. There was nothing unusual in this decision; nor in the fact that it was decided to use the north berth of the jetty. Captain Daly, after arriving on board, obtained the Master's signature to the Towage Form and Conditions of Entry. He had a conversation with him about the distribution of the cargo, in the course of which the Master mentioned the fact that the ship had permanent ballast tanks in the No. 4(a) wings. They had a discussion as to the manner in which the cargo would be discharged and Captain Daly's recollection is that the Captain said he would first discharge the centre tanks, which contained Arabian Heavy crude, and then stop discharging and take on ballast. The Master asked Captain Daly about the onshore ballasting facilities and was told that there was not any ballast available onshore at that time. Captain Daly mentioned particularly that at that time of year the prevailing winds were southwesterly and that, as the Bay was open to such conditions, it would not be possible to discharge the vessel completely without first taking on some ballast. The evidence of this witness relating to ballasting of the ship will be considered again in Chapter 19. The vessel wasfinally moored at 19.55 hours. Captain Daly remained on board until he was relieved the following morning.
4.2.2 Mr. Jeremiah Desmond went on duty at the jetty as P C O at 20.00 hours on Saturday, 6th January. The "Betelgeuse" had been made secure only five minutes earlier. Mr. Desmond was relieving Mr. Tim Kingston, who told him that he had not had time to carry out the safety checks (which a P C O is required to carry out before the ship is allowed to discharge its cargo).

The Safety-check list is a document which is set out in Appendix 7 of Gulfs "Policy and Procedures" Manual and it contains a detailed list of items which the P C O is required to check on board the vessel. Mr. Desmond proceeded to carry out the check required by the Manual. He noticed that a fan in the pump-room was not working, and he made it clear that the fan would have to be put in working order before the cargo could be discharged. He observed that one of the-blanks on a manifold valve was missing and he had the blank replaced. He noticed that rain was draining through the scuppers, and he had the scupper plugs made water-tight. There was a grating missing from the fire monitor deck, and he got this rectified. The Safety-check list requires the P C O to ensure that the bonding cable is connected tightly to bare metal on the vessel. Mr. Desmond stated that he recalled that the bonding cable had not been connected when he arrived at the jetty. He stated that he required the ship's rail to be scraped clear of paint and oil to ensure that a proper connection was made. He was not able to confirm whether the cable was connected on the jetty side, but he stated that there was an electrical switch at the top of the gangway which was operated and he assumed the bonding system was working properly, The Safety-check list also requires the P C O to check that fire-hoses and equipment on the vessel are ready for use. Mr. Desmond recalled that there were two or perhaps three hoses available, and that he personally positioned a monitor forward and a monitor aft of the manifold. The fire-hoses wrerc connected up to fire-hydrants, and there was a portable foamdrum at the manifold. Although the witness did not test the hoses (he was not required to do so under the check-list system) there is no reason to suppose that they were in any way defective. He reached agreement with the Master on the allocation of smoking locations and the use of cooking facilities, and he ensured that the requisite notices relating to smoking and cooking were posted. He also handed to the Master a copy of Gulfs "Instructions in case of fire". After the check-list bad been completed the vessel commenced discharging its parcel of Arabian Heavy crude. It was still doing this when Mr. Desmond was relieved at 08,00 hours on Sunday, 7th January. 4.2.3 Mr, Michael Ball and Mr. Michael Harris were cargo inspectors employed by Messrs. Moore Barrett & Redwood Ltd. They boarded the "Betelgeuse" at 20.05 hours. Their first task was to check the' amount of cargo against the ship's papers and this involved taking ullages of all cargo tanks. The figures were then agreed with the Chief Officer and there was no significant difference in the overall quantity of cargo aboard. Discharge of the Arabian Heavy began at 23.15 hours. Sunday, January 7th The Tribunal heard evidence from Mr. Patrick Murnane, the jetty foreman; Mr. Sean O'Brien, the dispatcher (in Gulf Control); Captain Phillips, the Marine Manager, who was doing relief duty as P C O on the jetty and Mr. Christopher O'Sullivan, the jetty PPO—all of whom were on duty on Sunday the 7th until 20.00 hours. Their evidence was to the following effect: (a) After taking up duty Mr. Murnane noticed a small slick of oil on the sea. It was present from about 10.00 hours to 18.00 hours. He reported it to Captain Phillips. It transpired that it was lubricating oil which had flowed from the deck from a broken barrel. It was not regarded as anything of significance by Captain Phillips and is not in any way significant for the purposes of this Inquiry. (b) The discharge of the Arabian Heavy continued all day, and was completed at 18.00 hours. Mr. Murnane then ensured that both valves on each of the lines at the jetty end were closed. His recollection was that the lines were not displaced; nor were the outboard arms of the Chiksan arms drained into the slop tank. 39


This evidence is of significance. The possible presence of oil in the Chiksan armf the time of the disaster will be considered in Chapter 18. (c) According to the Control Room log the ship began ballasting from the sea at 18.35 hours. Mr. O'Brien confirmed the accuracy of the log. The matter is discussed further in Chapter 19. The time of the commencement ballasting is of importance and the Tribunal is satisfied that the time recorded in t i l log is correct. (d) At 18.35 the displacing of the bunker line began and at 19.30 hours bunkering itself? began. Mr. O'Brien understood that the vessel was only taking on a limited amount of bunkers. At 19.50 Mr. Murnane saw a signal which he took to mean that bunkering was to stop and he so advised Mr. O'Brien. This, however, was a misunderstanding and bunkering recommenced and was completed at 20.40 hours, 191 tonnes having been taken on. (e) Mr. Murnane carried out the routine duties which he was required to perform according to the Manual. These included a check on the level of fluid in the slop tank. Everything was in order. At the stage of the Inquiry at which Mr. Murnane gave evidence (the 22nd day of the oral testimony) the possibility was being actively pursued by Total's expert witnesses that the slop tank and the vent pipe from the slop tank were corroded and that flammable vapour could have been emitted from this source. Mr. Murnane stated that there was nothing wrong with the slop tank or the vent pipe. This subject is discussed further fn Chapter 18. (f) At 11.00 hours Captain Phillips was present in the vessel's cargo control room when a conversation took place between the Master,, the Chief Officer and Captain Warner, the ship's pilot. Captain Phillips stated that a ballasting programme was discussed and that a decision was taken by the Master to take on ballast forthwith into the PBTs. He stated that ballasting of the PBTs began at about 11.30 hours, This evidence is of considerable importance in the case, as ballast in the PBTs would have contributed to the sagging condition to which it is suggested the vessel was subjected. Total submitted that this conversation never took place. The evidence in this regard is examined in detail in Chapter 19 and the reasons are given why the Tribunal accepts it. (g) Mr, O'Sullivan recollected that three or four members of the crew of the "Betelgeuse" were still on shore when he left the jetty at about 20.00 hours. They were, in fact, brought back to the vessel by the "Sea Lance" which arrived at Dolphin 22 at about 23.35 hours that evening. The skipper exchanged greetings with the PPO on Dolphin 22. 4.3.2 Mr. Ball was the "shore side" man i.e. he stayed at the terminal on Sunday the 7th January dipping the tanks ashore. Mr. Harris was the "ship man" and he returned to the "Betelgeuse" to take R.O.B. soundings on board. Mr. Ball went out to the vessel to pick up Mr. Harris and he recalled that the Chief Officer commented to Mr. Harris that ballasting of the ship would be finished at about 01.00 hours the following morning. An arrangement was made that Mr. Harris would return to the "Betelgeuse" before ballasting was completed and it was proposed that he would travel on the "Donemark", leaving Bantry Pier at midnight. This evidence is of considerable significance: firstly, in relation to the time at which the "Donemark" left the pier at Bantry, and secondly as to the quantity of ballast taken on board. It will be considered again in Chapter 6 and Chapter 19. When Mr. Ball and Mr. Harris left the vessel ballasting had started. According to the log of the "Donemark", they left Dolphin 22 at 18.40 hours. This entry in the log is an accurate one. 4.3.3 The "Betelgeuse" was visited by two surveyors acting for two different purchasers of the vessel. prospective

Mr. Tsakos arrived on board the vessel at about 11.30 hours, Mr. Stewart at about 13.35. Both returned to Bantry at about 18.15 hours. Mr. Tsakos and Mr. Stewart took photographs of the vessel which were put in evidence, and they both gave oral evidence relating to their surveys. This evidence is considered in Chapter 15. 4.3.4 The jetty crew and the pilot were relieved at 20.00 hours. Mr. Tim Kingston took up duty as P C O ; Mr. James O'Sullivan as jetty foreman; Mr. Denis O'Leary as PPO; Mr. Charles Brcnnan, Mr. William Shanahan and Mr. Cornelius O'Shea, as utility men. Captain David Warner at the same time took up duty on board the vessel as ship's pilot. All perished in the disaster. ; Summary of the Tribunal's conclusions | The Tribunal concludes: (a) that the "Betelgeuse" was moored to the offshore jetty in a normal manner on the evening of the 6th January. Before discharging any cargo the procedures required by Gulfs Safety-check list were carried out on board by the P C O conscientiously and efficiently. The discharge of the parcel of Arabian Heavy crude began at 23.15 hours and was completed the following day at 18.00 hours. 1 I (b) A discussion concerning ballasting the vessel took place at 11.00 hours on Sunday, 7th January, and as a result ballasting of the PBTs commenced at about 11.30 hours. Ballasting of the vessel's centre tanks began at 18.35 hours. (c) Transfer operations were carried out in a normal fashion and without incident. (d) The P C O on duty on the 7th January carried out in a proper manner the requirements of Gulfs manual, including a check of the contents of the centre platform slop tank. When the jetty crew left at 20.00 hours nothing unusual had occurred either on the ship or on the jetty. Had anything of a hazardous nature occurred between then and 23.30 hours the P P O at Dolphin 22 would have warned the skipper of the "Sea Lance" of its existence when he left returning members of the ship's crew at the offshore jetty. •£ jsB*


The Disaster: Eye-witness Evidence (Genera]


Introduction One person claimed to have seen the whole disaster from its commecemcnt—Mr. Connolly, ! the dispatcher on duty on the night of the 7th/8th January who was in the Control Room on Whiddy Island overlooking the jetty. He stated that he was seated at the control console observing the jetty and the "Betelgeuse" continuously up to the time the disaster began. If his evidence is correct then if is possible accurately to ascertain (a) when the disaster began (b) where it started (c) why it started and (d) its progress. If his evidence is accepted then Gulf clearly had no responsibility for what happened and none of its employees could have done anything to minimise the effects of the disaster or save any lives, in the log he kept that evening he entered the commencement of the casualty as having occurred at 00.55 hours. Significant parts of his testimony received corroboration,from four of his fellow-employees. Two of them were on the "Donemark", the personnel hunch which brought Mr. Harris out to the offshore jetty just before the disaster. Their evidence was to the effect that they arrived at Dolphin 22 at 00.40 hours (one of them stating that he checked his watch at that moment); at which time, according to their evidence, there was no sign of any fire. The two PPOs on duty on the Island also corroborated the dispatcher's version in important details. The evidence of the dispatcher and four of his colleagues is directly and irreconcilably contradicted bv a large number of persons who saw or heard the disaster at a time much earlier than that deposed to by the dispatcher and his colleagues. If the evidence of these eyewitnesses is correct, then a fire was raging on the ship and the jetty at a time when the dispatcher says that he was watching the scene continuously and nothing untoward was happening, and at a time when, according to the crew of the "Donemark". a visitor was being left at Dolphin 22. The Tribunal was fortunate in having"available to it a considerable number of witnesses whose memory was accurate, whose powers of observation were well developed and whose testimony could be cross-checked with other reliable evidence. With the aid of this evidence it has been possible to ascertain when the disaster began and obtain an accurate description of 'its progress. Tin Tribunal has nir liLSTTaliun in aucpiing"iliis uvidcacu and iLji'Uing fet of ^lllf 1 " ^ ' r " 1 '1| " fpH^.wM-ppl^i n in il m IhHr MMwp WTOU^ 'consider^ in p^y'^'' in the next Ch-apter.



In this Chapter, theNgeneral eye-witnesf; evidence will be considered. Included in this examination will be thkevidence of the t a r d a witnesses whose evidence helps to establish not only the time of the dkastcr but also tne time at which the dispatcher became aware of it. The evidence clearly establishes that tha disaster can be divided into three phases. Phase 1 lasted from about 00.31—00.32Shours to ®0.40 hours approximately; Phase 2 lastpd from 00.40 hours until the massive explosion at 0T.06—01.08 hours approximately; and Phase 3 covers the period from the massive explosion to the final sinking of the vessel. This Chapter is divided into the following sections: —Section 1 deals with the evidence of tho^e who witnessed the fire in Phase 1 i.e. from 00.31-00.32 hours approximately^) 00.40 hours approximately.

—-Section A deals with the evidence of those who saw the fjra^arly in its second phase, i.e. at
WJ.40 hours approximately and at 00.45 hpt(fs approximately. —Section 3 deals with the Garda evidence, the alep^of the emergency services and the time o f \ h e major explosion,

t \

—Section 4 considers the evidence of tha^'other witnesses who gave evidence concerning their knowledge of the disaster. —Section 5 deals w^th the evid^fee of the postmistress on Whiddy Island. 5.1.3 There were a number V f pmtrtTs'on duty on or near the Island on the night of the 7th/8th January and it is propo^ed'to consider their evidence in the next Chapter. One of them was Mr. John D o w n e ^ S pinnpman on duty. He gave helpful evidence which will be detailed later. But papfof his testimony assists in fixing the time of the disaster. It was to the ^ followm e f f e c t : ^ 1 > ( I.' J t ' i u ^ >< /? f M ^ M ) t Ofii TfaC A J r $ H T O f A4S«Bwi*fey was on duty with an assistant pumpman, Mr. McGee, Mr. McGcc had taken the Land Rover with which Ottcy were supplied and was carrying out routine checks in the tank farm area. Mr. Downey stayed in the vicinity of the pump-house, the power-house, the heating plant, the water treatment area and the area of the ballast recovery tank. Having made routine checks on these parte of the plant, he left the pump-house to go to the powerhouse. This journey brought him is full view of the jetty and the ship. He entered the door of the power-house, walked straigm through the main floor, picked up the power-house log, wrote the date on it and he entered the time as "00.30". Before entering the particulars of the time as being 00.30 hours he Yhecked his watch (which he was satisfied was an accurate timekeeper) and quite definitely, recalls recording the time from it. He was satisfied that "only seconds" had elapsed from theSfime he first entered the power-house to the time he made the log entry. Mr. Downey was quite certain that at the t i m \ h e entered the power-house everything at the jetty and on the ship was normal. Thus his evidence, which is completely acceptable, quite definitely establishes that the fire must have commenced sometime after 00.29 hours on the morning of the 8th of January.



•at H ' m T /A -. T A -f^ - f c V
JCL11U1N 1 \ The first phase of, the disaster: 00.31 hours \ approximately to 00.40 hours approximately. \ The t^jtimcny • i r '' c t 'nrMklii-hinpApr? nf rVip Pn ]• liin .ifiln- dinnumCovlh £&T»6LrSft fnl A c r s ^ ^ 2 Mr. John O'Connor, Mrs. Dorothy ^)'Connor and Mrs. Mary O'Sullivan . ' \ Mr. and Mrs. O'Connor live at Barony, Glengarriff. Their bungalow is on the coast about 220 feet (67 m) above sea level and has a direct view on to Garnish Island and across to Whiddy Island 3.5 miles (5.6 km) away. They have french windows in their lounge but the view of the jetty from these windows is somewhat obscured by\trees. From their west bedroom window, however, an unobstructed view of the jetty can b \ obtained. On Somfey exiling Mr. tilld Mrs. O ^ o n n o r had been' out."Tiny lUuincd-aftokmidnight. When k r -Mr, O'Connor noticed the time on clock on the mantelpiece \ it war 00.30 hours. Mt!). O'Cuiaiut askiTHrcHiusbandT-as-they a i m e d homo, if he would -iuiiursuppci, lie ltd, 1)LH Mis, <J Connor said she iVUuld make sumc tea anJ * As she was ng llm luuugl 10 gu L the kitchen MrTQ'Cmniui said "Thcic ii'a fie Q you can lieai ir 1 '. Mrs. O'Connor commented that there could be n o t h i n g boat out was Sunday but she looked at the clock on the mantelpiece and saw thai the time was 30 hours and said "There could be—it is half-past twelve". Mr. O'Connoi^cot up from chair as he heard a rumbling sound and went to the windows of the loungeSand said to J u s t a s s h e w a s S o i n g i n t o ^ e kitchen "I do believe there is a fire on Whiddy". Mrs. gl'Connor went to the window and said " N o , it is the twinkling of the light" an\j she left 43 *L?£c?U


the lounge and went into the kitchen. She was preparing to boil a kettle and had just pu on when her husband called out from the west bedroom "It is a fire there". She p u t | kettle on the AgiVooker and followed her husband through the french windows of t lounge and into the garden. When Mrs. O ' C o n n o r got on to the terraCe outside the fren^ windows she saw qie fire. She is quite certain it was on the tanker. Sh/described it as "no very big" when shV first saw it, but she and her husband went d o w n to a rock which"l situated in their garden about 30 or 40 yards (27 or 36 m) from their house to get a bette view of the fire. She^could see the tanker clearly (it was, she said, a "beautiful moonlight night") and the fire was to the right of the centre of the tanker. The fire was still not verv big (she expressed the View that the fire then was of "manageable proportions") but as she was looking at it "suddenly there was a roar like wind and the flame went to the left-hand side of the tanker right\across it." She described the event ^ a "big flash". When this happend Mrs. O ' C o n n o r ran off the rock back into the house, fii the house she decided to ring the Glengarriff Exchange to raise the alarm and she picked lip the phone and spoke to the operator, Mrs. O'Sullivan. Obviously it is important to\cstablish the time at which Mrs. O ' C o n n o r telephoned Mrs. O'Sullivan as this would help\to establish the duration of the first phase of the fire. In this connection Mrs. O'Sullivan's evidence is helpful. She places the call from Mrs. O ' C o n n o r at between 00.40 and 00.45 hours, ^he had a friend visiting her home that evening. She recalls that when he got up to leave she looked at her clock and the time was 00.30 hours. Her husband went to the hall door with their visitor and stayed talking there with him for "nearly ten minutes". When he came in he remarked "we'are going to have a busy time in the phone because we heard thundei\ while we were at the door". He went to the back door of the kitchen and returned after ^ m i n u t e and said "it looks very strange" and Mrs. O'Sullivan went out and saw a red glow which seemed to be flickering. She thought it must be the aurora borealis but her husband, thought that it was a fire and said he would go to look elsewhere. Just as Mrs. O'Sullivan returned the telephone rang and it was Mrs. O'Connor on the line reporting the fire which she had seen. Mrs. O'Sullivan thinks this was between 00.40 and 00.45 hours. \ It is clear, however, that the time of Mrs\ O'Connor's call must have been very close to 00.40 hours. Mrs. O'Connor could not be e^act as to the length of time she was out of the house and on the rock looking at the fire, antfishe is not of course in any way to be criticised for this, but she thought that it could havo. been for about six or seven minutes. She remembers quite clearly that the kettle was not foiling when she returned to the kitchen and that she then decided to ring the Glengarriff Exchange. She explained that the fire in the Aga cooker is low at night and that she would no\ expect the kettle to boil in 4 or 5 minutes as it would do normally. This evidence would tend to establish that the dramatic spread of the fire along the tanker (the beginning of the second phase of the disaster) occurred in the region of 00.40 hours and not any later. This is consistent with evidence of other witnesses. Mr. O'Connor remembers quite clearly that the time n^ returned home was 00.30 hours. He heard what he recalls as a "rumbling" outside which seemed to be prolonged, and it was like "muffled thunder" and he drew the curtains of the french windows of the lounge. He saw a red glow in the sky from the direction of Whiddy. He went from there to the w i n d o w of the west bedroom to get a better view. From there he wasV^uite definite that there was a fire "on the Island". Not only did he see a glow but he saw flames as well " w i t h yellow tips". He then went out to the garden and down to the rock from which he could see the fire quite plainly. He was quite definite that the fire was on the tanker Vnd not the jetty^He said it was in the centre of the tanker. He thought it was not a small Vire and that in an instant "it seemed to go the whole length of the tanker". Mr. O ' C o n n o r ' s recollection of the time he saw the fire and the length of time he was looking at it before inspread was not accurate. But his evidence is helpful in two respects. It confirms that the disaster commenced at shortlv after 00.30 hours, that the commencement of the fire was accompanied by a continuous rumbling sound like thunder, and that the fire was on the ship (st its centre) and not on the jetty. \ Mrs. O'Connor's evidence is principally of importance in relation\to the first phase of the disaster. But it is also helpful in confirming other evidence in relation to the second phase. After Mrs. O'Connor had talked to Mrs. O'Sullivan she was put through to the Glengarriff

Garda Station, where she alerted the sergeant's wife to the disaster. She then went back to the garden. By then the fire had spread and was "huge" ,and "frightening". She had expressed the opinion that even after the sudden spread of the fire that it was in her opinion "manageable". It is clear that even after the fire had sprca'd there was an interval of time before it otvcloped into a major conflagration. This supports the evidence of the pumpman, Mr. Downey, which will be considered in the next chapter, as well as other eye-witness evidence toVhe early part of the second phase of the disaster. The evidence\ o f Mr. Patrick Holland and Mrs. Elizabeth Holland Mr. and Mrs, Patrick Holland live at Derrycreha, Glengarriff. Their house affords a perfect view of the jetty \ which is about three miles (4.8 km) distant. On Sunday evening the 7th January Mrs. Holland had been out of her home visiting with some members of her family. She recalls arriving\home at midnight. This is the only time on which she can give definite evidence. She and some of the members of her family said the rosary and she then prepared to go to bed. She wa&sitting on her bed when she heard an unusual noise. It was a rumbling and crackling noise—Something completely different to the noises which usually emanated from the jetty. One of her children asked her if it was thunder. She looked out of her bedroom window to sec the cause of the noise and she saw a fire on the tanker. She remarked "It looks as if the tanker is on fire". Having looked at the fire for a short time she went into her daughter's bsdroom (her daughter worked for the Bantry Towing Company) and she and her daughter th£m looked at the fire from her daughter's bedroom window. Mrs. Holland cannot be certain onthe time she first saw the fire, but estimates that it was between 00.40 hours and 00.45 hoursA Mr. Holland was in bed when nis wife went to the window and first noticed the fire. He got up immediately and looked for Himself. He cannot say what time it was when he first saw the fire. The evidence of these Y/itnesses does not help in establishing the time of the outbreak of the fire. But it is of considerable assistance in describing the nature of the fire in its first phase, as it is clear that Mr m d Mrs, Holland saw the fire whilst it was localised and before it had spread. Mr. Holland s\id that when he first saw it the blaze "seemed to be coming out of the hold in the centrc\of the tanker, more to the front, but I could see the gunwales on both sides". It was more to the front of the tanker than the centre. It appeared to be small "as if it was a Cortina car b l u i n g " . He insisted that he could see the ship plainly and that the fire was in the centre of it. As he was watching the fire it got bigger, slowly at first. Then when it got to a certain size it suddenly spread at an "awful pace . . . all over the tanker". Clearly what Mr. Holland was describing was the same scene which Mr. and Mrs. O'Connor had witnessed, (see: Paragraph 2). Mrs. Holland was of the same opinion as her Vusband as to the position of the fire when she first saw it. She was satisf?ed that the fire was a Small one when she first saw it and that it was on the deck of the ship and a bit forward of the Centre of the ship. She, too, thought the size of the fire when she first saw it was that as ifV motor car was on fire. 4 The evidence of Mr. Richard Dearden and Mrs. Margery Dearden Mr. and Mrs. Dearden live at Seal Harbour. This is fotir miles (6.4 km) on the western side of Glengarriff. Their house is situated on the water's edge with a clear view of the terminal and the jetty, a distance of about three miles (4.8 km)Vcross the sea. Mr. Dearden was interested in ships (he had served in the Blutish N a w — " a long time ago" he said) and he recalled well seeing the tanker on the noma side of the jetty on Sunday morning, the 7th of January, after some fog had cleared a t \ b o u t 11.00 hours. He gave evidence of hearing sounds on Sunday evening at about 21.30\ours. The sounds were, he thought, like thunder and he did not associate them with the talker. He retired to bed as usual and was awakened by a flickering light on the ceiling of his\cdroom. He got up and went to the window from which he had a clear view of the tanker. He saw what he escribed as a "small" fire on the tanker itself. He placed the fire as aft of where the ship's bow section comes up. He was quite definite that the fire was on the deck of the ship. When * e saw it first it covered a very small area. There was no reflection from the fire on the . ater. Its colour was "yellowy white" and he was able to see the outline of the ship. The

flames went straight up. He watched the fire for a short while and then went next dlj his wife's bedroom. He woke her and they both went to the window of her bedroom,': interval of time it had taken him to get from his room to his wife's bedroom window had changed Considerably. When he saw it the second time it had spreacf right alor^| deck of the tanfter. He and his wife left her bedroom and went into the lounge area oS house. His wifeUook some photographs (which failed to come out) and he recalls'? leaving where the\ were standing and going to the kitchen area and remarking that the ti was 00.50 hours Mrs. Dearden recalled being awakened bv her husband and looking at the tanker throu' her bedroom window. She described it as being a "white glow" and that it seemed whi'{ from stem to stern—like a poker that had been put in a fire and taken out. At that time sH did not see any smoke. She went into the kitchen-lounge area of the house and picked up hep camera and took two photographs but was not certain whether she took the photograp' from inside the house or outside on the terrace. As she was taking the photographs j. splintering sound came from the tanker accompanied by a "whooshing" sound. The taking; of the photographs and tse splintering sound occurred more or less at the same time. She; went to the kitchen, obserVed the time on the kitchen clock (an electric clock) and wrote on 1 a piece of paper (which sha produced at the hearing) the following words "went at 12.50". (i.e. 00.50 hours). \ Mrs. Dearden also recalled a later incident in connection with the fire. She saw a ball of flame coming up from the tanker which was "quite horrible". It was as if something had burst in the centre of the tankc\ and sent the whole lot uj?. This occurred after the splintering sound but she cannot say how lYmg after it was. She als© recalled hearing the siren in Bantry Bay and she wrote on the pieceVf paper "siren at 1.15" (i.e. 01.15 hours). She stated that she looked at the clock when the siren went. Mr. Dearden, too, saw the large ball of flame. It was not accompanied by a large explosion but rather, in his opinion, with something in the nature of a rush of air rather than much noise. These witnesses were not able to assist as to the time the fire commenced, as when Mr. Dearden was awakened it had already started. But he saw the fire before it had spread and their evidence is consistent with the times established by other evidence to the effect that the sudden spread of the fire took place at 00.40 hours approximately. Mrs. Dear den's description (supported by Mr. Dearden) ofa "whooshing sound" which she said occurred at 00.50 hours is consistent with other Avidence to the effect that an explosion must have occurred at about that time. She is not accurate in stating that the siren went off at "1.15 , but this does not invalidate in any way\her evidence relating to earlier events as the time could have been recorded some short time after she heard it. Nor does their opinion that the ship did not break its back until 02.10 hours justify a rejection of the rest of their evidence. From the distance at which they were observing the burning vessel, and bearing in mind its likely draught at the time of the disaster, it would be easy to be mistaken about the disposition of the vessel in the water. \

,.5 The evidence of Mr. Aidan Vaughan, Mrs. Sheila Vaughan and Mr. Richard Brennan \ Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan were amongst the first of those to see the fire on the night of the disaster. Their evidence helps to confirm that it started shortly after 00.30 hours. Although their view of it was not as good as that of other witnesses, they can confirm that in the first phase the fire was a small one. Mrs. Vaughan is able to confirm that an explosion took place at approximately 00.50 hours. \ These witnesses live at Droumaclarig, Bantry. On Sunday evening, the 7th January, they were visiting Mrs. Vaughan's mother who lived at CSengarriff. They had their ten-monthold son with them. Just as they were leaving to retuVn home Mrs. Vaughan checked the clock in her mother's house and her own watch and shit remembers that the time was 00.20 hours, as she recalled thinking that it was late to have heit baby out. Mr. Vaughan recalls her saying "It's twenty past twelve, we should go home". Tney then left, taking the coast road back in the Ballylickey direction. When they were closit to the Green Acres Hotel Mrs. Vaughan noticed a glow in the sky to which she drew herViusband's attention. He stopped

tihe car, reversed it a short distance and when it stopped they both saw a fire at Whiddy Island. In Mr, Vaughan's view "it was a small flame". He said that from the distance from which he was "it appeared to me to be six foot high and in the shape of a pyramid, three foot wide and six foot high coming to a point". They remained there for about two minutes and thers moved down to the Green Acres Hotel from which they had a better view. The fire thenVtarted to get bigger and smoke started to rise in the shape of a mushroom. Mr. Vaughan thought that they remained there for about ten minutes and then they set off to drive to tha home of Mr. Brennan, who was living not far away in Kilkeel. Mrs. Vaughan also expresses the view that the fire was very small when first she saw it. She estimated that they stayed about ten minutes at Green Acres Hotel looking at the fire during which time it was getting bigrger. They could not be certain (which indeed is not surprising, in view of the location from which they were observing the fire) where exactly it was situated. Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan thought that they saw the fire before 00.30 hours. They base this estimate on the fafit (a) that they left Glengarriff after noting that the time was 00.20 hours and (b) that it would take about 7 or 8 minutes to reach the point on the road, near the small church at Snave, at Vhich they first saw the fire. But it is quite possible that they may not fully have taken into\ccount the time it took them to get into their car after noticing the lateness of the hour, and their evidence is not necessarily irreconcilable with that of Mr. Downey who establishes\hat the fire was not in existence at 00.29 hours. But in view of the distance they had travelleaSthe time must have been very shortly after 00.30 hours when they first saw the fire, and their evidence is consistent with that of Mrs. and Mr. O'Connor which places the beginning of the (disaster very close to 00.30 hours. Support for the view that MX and Mrs. Vaughan saw the fire at about 00.30 hours is obtained from the evidence of M^. Brennan. Having watched the fire for some time Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan drove to Mr. Brenrian's house. He remembers being awakened by a noise at the window and that he looked at rajs watch and saw that it was 00.45 hours. He then looked out of his window and saw "the wHble sky on fire". He got dressed and travelled with the Vaughans back to Green Acres. Fromythere Mr. Brennan saw that Dolphin 22 and "west of it was just a mass of flames". "The sky", he said, "was full of black, very thick, black smoke". It is clear, therefore, that aboutVifteen minutes could have elapsed from the time the Vaughans first saw the fire to the time\they knocked at Mr. Brennan's window. Mrs. Vaughan's testimony assists on another aspect of the disaster. She remembers waiting in the car whilst her husband went to fetch MV Brennan. Just as her husband and Mr. Brennan were returning an explosion occurred. Th\s was the first explosion that they heard that evening. It would seem that this explosion must have occurred at about 00.50 hours and it could well have been the explosion described by the Deardens as a "whooshing sound" which Mrs. Dearden said occurred at 00.50 houts. That an explosion occurred at this time is borne out by other testimony, and will be considered again when the evidence of the pumpman on the Island, Mr. Downey, is beinAdiscussed (see: paragraph 6.2.1). •2.6 Mr. Frits van Os \


Mr. van Os is a Dutch national and by occupation aVrofessional photographer. He served for a time as an officer in the Dutch army. He arrived irVBantry in June, 1978, and lives with his wife and two children in a house at Dromleigh SoutV Bantry, which is almost due east of the terminal. It is on a hillside overlooking the town a\id the Bay and about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the jetty. From his house Mr. van Os can sec the\ops of the tanks of the tank farm at the terminal, but he has no view of the jetty itself. \ On Sunday evening he was in his living room—a room whicia faces straight on to Whiddy Island. His wife and children had gone to bed and he was listening to music, lying on a bench with the lights of the room turned off except for a readmg light over his head. He noticed "to his astonishment" a glow coming up under the \tandow. He took off the earphones and got into an upright position. As he was doing so he^ooked at his watch and siw that the time was 00.35 hours. He looked out through the window and saw a fire at •iiddy Island. He immediately awoke his wife and the two of thVn looked at the fire. -£en he first saw the flame he described it as being "in the form of a cVidle", coming from ind the Island or on the Island itself. It was, he thought, "rather concentrated" but rising t!ite a distance in the air. He could see the reflection of the flame in a clo\d of smoke above

the flame. There was a slight wind and the smoke had risen very high but was ng exactly vertical, but bent over to the right drifting a little bit in the wind. As he watctr fire it developed in width. The fire extended both sides from its original position \rincipally to the witness's right. This development of the fire was a gradual one an®* is occurring he heard minor cracks and sounds of explosions which he described as "m plots". Having watched the fire for some short while he obtained one of his cameras, p150 millimetre lens in it, went to the fence which surrounds the terrace of his house and t§two pictures. He took the camera into his house and put in another lens (an 80 millimet lens) and took a third photograph. Whilst the witness was certain that he first saw the fire' 00.35 hours he was not certain as to the times at which he took the photographs, estimatecnthat the first photograph was taken about 10 minutes after he first noted the f§L The witness recalls the major explosion. just after it Vent off, he heard the fire siren at Bantry Bay Fire Station. He recalled thaff when these events happened his wife looked at her watch and said "it is eight minutes pasf* one". The witness was not certain whether the third photograph was taken before or after the major explosrbn but expressed the view that it could have been before it. The relevance;^ of this evidence is\hat it is possible to make out from the photograph that the bow of the , ship was at what tha witness described as a "very unusual angle". As to the major explosion, the witness describecKthe shock waves from it as causing his house to tremble. The explosion was so severe that it caused Mr. van Os to consider the necessity of evacuating his nouse with his wife and children. ftrom the position of Mr. van Os's house it was not possible for him to see the exact location oR the fire, but other evidence amply establishes that the fire which he first saw was on the "Betelgeuse". His evidence, however, verf accurately establishes that the fire was in existence ^t 00.35 hours. It also corroborates other evidence that the major explosion occurred at 01.OS hours. Understandably enough, the witness could not be certain as to how exactly the fire developed. But his evidence shows thHat the development was a gradual one, and that it wa\ accompanied by minor explosions. Mrs. Brenda Elphick Mrs- Elphick is a married woman\and a nurse. On the night of the disaster she was on duty in the Bantry County Hospital from 20.30 hours. The hospital is situated to the east of the town centre in a slightly elevated position. She recalled being in the office attached to the female surgical ward preparing chaXts, an office-which is on the first floor of the hospital facing east. It was a calm night ancn what first attracted her attention to the existence of something unusual was a strange noisa. She found it difficult to describe the noise but said that it was a sort of "crackling sound".\She first went to check her patients and then went to the sluice room on the same corridor bat which gives a view in a north-easterly direction. The window was open and she could see\smoke when she looked through it. She decided to go to another window on the corridor. Asvshe went from the sluice room to this window she checked the clock in the hospital corridoV and also her own watch. The time was 00.40 hours. From the corridor window she had aview facing Whiddy Island. She could then see smoke which was very high in the sky and fiames which lit up the whole sky. In her opinion it was a very large fire when first she saw As to the interval which had elapsed from hearing the unusual sound to the time when she looked through the corridor window (00.40 houre) she said that "only minutes" elapsed. She agreed that in a written statement which she had made to the Gardai she had estimated that "approximately ten minutes" had elapsed but she stated in evidence that it would not have been this length of time. She expressed the opiniomthat the fire must have started a "few minutes" before she saw it. This evidence establishes that by 00.40 hours the fire Was $ large one. It was at that time accompanied by a "tremendously high" column of smoke which had obviously travelled some distance from the scene of the disaster as it was seen Vy Nurse Elphick when she looked through the window of the sluice room. This window faces in a north-easterly direction and not directly over Whiddy Island and the smoke must have travelled some distance to permit her to see it from this position. Her evidence shows that the fire must have started some appreciable time before 00.40 hours and is consistent with the evidence that it started shortly after 00.30 hours.


The evidence o f Miss Mary Holland Miss Holland had been at a dance in the West Lodge^Hotel. She was sitting in her car in the forecourt of the hotel when she noticed two unujidal happenings. She noticed fit-stly some members of the Garda Siochana running in tWIorecourt as if there was an emergency—a piece of evidence which is corroborated amK-xplained by the evidence of Garda Byrne and Garda Joy. She then noticed smoke coming from the Whiddy direction. She first thought that the smoke was coming from a fin^in a hayshed. In a few seconds, however, it appeared to be very black smoke and there w^as a great deal of it. She looked at her watch and recalls that the time was nearly twentwfive to one (00.35 hours). She decided to drive down to the beach road to get a better vk>w of the fire and she drove down to "the Beaches" (part of the coast just beyond the airstrip and which is close to Whiddy Island). From there she could see the glow of the fire but not the fire itself. She saw when she got there—a distance of miles (2,4 km) from/fhe hotel approximately—a lot of smoke travelling in the direction of Ballylickey. A slight discrepancy exists between the oral evidence of this witness and the statement whi^n she made to the Gardai on the 19th January. In her written statement she said that thp^time she first saw the fire was "12.38 a.m." (i.e. 00.38 hours). The discrepancy is, however, a minor one, and in no way affects the conclusion that this witness saw a fire at or cloJr to 00.35 hours. Her view of the location of the fire was, however, obscured by the w TJUl Tii il lilil I "lln Ti il iiiiil






i i in lin i n i r

The disaster began very shortly after 00.30 hours, in the region of 00.31-00.32 hours. When it began it was accompanied by sounds like distant thunder. At its commencement the fire appeared to be a small one and localised just forward of the centre of the ship, but gradually increased in intensity. It was accompanied by a large plume of smoke. Its transition to the second phase was sudden and dramatic. The fire was seen to spread aft along the whole length of the tanker. This happened at about 00.40 hours.

SECTION 2 The second phase of the disaster: 00.40 hours approximately to 01.06-01.08 hours The evidence of the witnesses \Uiich will mm be considered: SCfftS-WTth^eae who first saw the fire at about 00.40 hours, It tejclear that these witnesses saw the fire when it had reached its second phase, that is to say, when it was no longer a small fire but had spread considerably. From the evidence now considered it is clear that the fire was on the sea at both sides of the ship from about 00.40 hours onwards. evidence of thoso who i m r r h e fire feom no 45 oryr-ird- "-ill then-be "-tri'l'TM The second phase lasted dntil 01.08 hours when the massive explosion occurred. Evidence it /"nri-irlrrrrd lntn- clearly establishes that this explosion occurred in way of the No. 6 tanks and the No. 5 centre tank. The second phase was accompanied by a number of explosions, one of which—at about 00.50 hours—resulted in a very considerable increase in the intensity of the fire (see paragraph 6.2.2). Other evidence,««hiih will be Lomidcmd lafwr establishes that these explosions did not take place in the vessel but outside it. fanthci nf thf sernnd phnrr m i T -l-i iiiv i j ; n "' 1 n™ "'lii n h '"ill l , n " ii• i 1 'i 1f l in tfr n n n t chapur. The disaster as seen at 00.40 fiours approximately Doctor Alexandra O'Mahony and Mr. Frank O'Mahony Doctor O'Mahony and Mr. 0 ' M a h o n \ l i v e at Dromkeal which is a short distance to the north-west of Ballylickey. From their h o W they can see the jetty which is about 4.4 miles Or 7 km away. Doctor O'Mahony recalls g o W to bed at 00.35 hours. Both before she went ^ e d and as she was in bed she was aware o^unusual noises. She described these as bein^ l- thunder in the distance or the booming of Concorde or heavy lorries passing outside' . ^ r e c a l l s putting off the light to go to sleep at OttyO. The clock was at the side of her bed put out the light she clearly remembers noticing the time and was mildly irritated 49

at the lateness of the hour because she had an early start the following down in bed and as she had some pins in her hair she was uncomfortable up to take them out.»As she did so she pulled back the curtain and saw Bay. The fire was a big one with smoke rising to the left going towards not see what was on fire but it looked like the tanker.

morning.' and decided { the fire out 1 Bantry. She cf

Mr. O'Mahony was oozing when he was awakened by his wife. He got out of immediately and looked at the clock which was beside him. It was a little after 00.40—4 clock had not reached 00.45. He saw the fire which he thought was "to the right of! offshore jetty". The nigh^ was a very clear one and he had a perfect view of the terminf The wind was negligible* The witness could not be certain whether the fire was on f tanker or on the jetty. He ^iad the impression that the fire was not on the sea when he fir| saw it but could not be certain about this. The witness went into the garden and watched tH flame and smoke from there,^He witnessed the major explosion. "A vast white sheet of flamsoared into the sky and at thak stage the floor under my feet shook and the window shook!'. The flames then spread to the, north. The impression which the witness had was that the. whole length of the tanker, w^ich the witness thought was at right angles to the jetty, was then completely on fire. After that explosion there were continuous creaking and tearing sounds which he had not heard, before the explosion took place. Dr. and Mr. O'Mahony had bee A under the impression that the tanker had been moored at right angles to the jetty, and thev\ thought that what they were looking at was the whole length of the tanker on fire. After the major explosion there were continuous creaking sounds and tearing sounds which Mr. O'Mahony had not heard before the explosion took place. ( i t Mr. and Mrs, O'Mahony were, in fa&t, looking at the stern of the vessel from a distance of over four miles. It was therefore veAy difficult for them to describe or know the exact location of the fire. But their testimony ys of considerable importance in establishing the time of the second phase of the fire. It is clean that when they saw the fire it was a little after 00.40 and before 00.45 hours. The fire was then in its second phase. Both saw a " b i g " fire, a "substantial" fire. Doctor O'Mahony continued watching it from the window and whilst she cannot be sure, she considered that the fire did not change until after the big explosion. The fire seen by these witnesses was of different dimensions to the "small fire' described by the witnesses in Section 1 of this chapter. Clearly, they were looking at the second phase of the disaster. Their evidence helps in confirming that the second phase began in the region of 00.40 hours,



The evidence of Mr. John Crowley Mr. and Mrs. Crowley were visiting friends (tl^ O'Sheas) in Gorties at a place known as Bay View Farm. Mr. Crowley recalls that the programme on television had come to an end and the set was switched off. Mr. Crowley looked at his watch and the time was 00.35. As they were standing up to leave a member of the family turned on the dishwasher. It was a new one and it was decided to wait and see how\it performed. As he was standing waiting to leave, someone pulledy curtain aside and saw the fire at the jetty. Mr. Crowley immediately went to the window and saw the fire. He estimates that the time was then about 00.40 hours. \ From the window he could see the stern of the tanker. He saw a "saddle of fire" midway on the vessel and on both sides of it. He could see the to^s of the flames coming over the superstructure of the tanker on occasions. It didn't look "terribly big" when he first saw it. He saw a column of smoke, very high, black and dense ancf^rising at an angle of about fortyfive degrees. Mr. Crowley immediately drove to his home at Relane Poinjt, a distance of some five miles from his friend's house. His route brought him through the town of Bantry and out past the West Lodge Hotel. As he was going through the town he noticed the Garda patrol car outside the Garda Station, and he could see the column of smoloe passing over the town. His home is 160 feet (49 m) above sea level and he had a clear view of the jetty. The fire was much stronger at the time he reached his home. After he got out of his car a "vicious"

cxplosiorfsoccurred, the effects of which he actually felt and which caused his dog to roll over on t h \ ground. This witness observed the fire just after the disaster had entered its second phase. The fire was not then very\great, but it was both on the ship and on the sea on both sides of it. I Mr. Richard Fitzgerald and Mr. James O'Shea The yiew which tHfcse witnesses had of the fire was from a car being driven from Glcngarriff to Ballylickey. Although they saw the fire for a short time in its first phase, their evidence is of particular relevanse to the second phase of the disaster. Mr. Fitzgerald lives at^Ballylickey. On the night of the 7th/8th January a friend of his, Mr. O'Shea, was visiting him. Some time after midnight two girls called to his house and asked for a lift to the Castle Hotel which is near Glengarriff and about six miles away. Mr. Fitzgerald thinks that the feme was then 00.20 hours. It was on his return journey, at a point in the road known as Arda\urrish, that he first noticed something unusual. He saw what he thought were two small fires in the vicinity of the tanker and the jetty. He did not stop his car and Mr. O'Shea thought that he was mistaken about the existence of a fire. Mr. Fitzgerald continued on to Green Acres, a distance of about three miles (4.8 km), he reckoned, from the place he 3aw the fire first, and having passed the hotel he noticed a brightness in the sky. He stopped and drove back a short distance and then saw what he described as a massive fire. The view which Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. O'Shea obtained from the moving car was an intermittent one. They cannot be certain of the time when first they noticed the fire but place it at abcJut 00.40 hours. It is clear that when they were watching the fire from Green Acres the firdhad reached its second phase. The view which these witnesses hac^ was of the stern of the tanker. It was clearly visible when they stopped the car. There was, Mr. Fitzgerald said, a very bright background, and he saw balls of smoke and a "massive\irc". He could see that the sea was on fire on both sides of the main fire, but mainly between the jetty and the shore. Mr. O'Shea thought that the fire was around the accommodation a'ica of the ship, and that it was getting worse by the second. The fire "seemed to pour over flpe side of the ship" and it was on the sea. The witnesses stayed about three minutes at Green Acres and then drove to Bantry Pier. Mr. Fitzgerald remembers hearing a number of Janall explosions whilst he was at the Pier and heard what he described as a "massive" explosion at 01.07 hours. He was able to state the time of the massive explosion with accuracy because Mr. O'Shea looked at his watch when it occurred and told him the time. The evidence o f Mr. Denis Connolly Mr. Denis Connolly resides at Blackrock Road in thatown of Bantry. Early in the morning of the 8th January he had left his home to drive t<>. a restaurant in the town. He recalls driving through Wolfe Tone Square. As he was approaching the Bantry Bay Hotel he saw a black pall of smoke in front of him coming up from Whiddy Island. He had looked at his watch a minute, or at most two minutes, before he reached the Square. This was at 00.39 hours. He is satisfied, then, that when he first saw tfte fire the time was 00.40 hours approximately. He described the smoke as going straight up and towards the Ballylickey direction, with some flames mixed in the smoke. He derived to drive to a better vantage point at "the Beaches" closer to the Island. Having viewed the fire from this point he returned to the town to call at a friend's house. As he was waiting to be let in there was a violent explosion. He looked at his watch again. The time was then 01.05 hours. Mr. Connolly's testimony is further evidence of the existence \of the fire at 00.40 hours.

The evidence of Mr. Michael Wiseman f" \ JVlr. Wiseman lives at Caher, about two miles from the town of Bantry and on the ballylickey side of it. His house is on elevated ground off the main Bantry/Glengarriff road. >e had been at the West Lodge Hotel on the evening of the 7th and Bad arrived home at bout 23.30 hours. He did not go to bed immediately. He made himself a.cup of coffee and 51

went to the front door of his house at a time which he estimates was 00.30 hours. The5 then nothing unusual to be seen. He returned indoors and finished his coffee. He th$ to the front door for a second time. When he opened it he immediately saw a fire. He c4 his brother and he looked at his watch. The time was then 00.40 hours. W h e n he first sag he thought the fireywas at a neighbour's house. At that time the sky was "pretty red there was black smoke hovering straight over his house. He went to a field behind his ho' to get a better viewsof the fire and at 00.50 hours approximately drove to Ardaturl Mr. Wiseman's evidence is obviously accurate and confirms the existence of the fire at ODt hours. 7 The evidence o f Mr. Cornelius Connolly Mr. Connolly had been a vfsitor in the Wast Lodge Hotel on Sunday the 7th of January. H p recalled leaving the hotel at 1)0.30 hours on the morning of the 8th and driving to the Old^ Pier at Bantry town where ho parked the van he was driving. He estimated that it took hir about five minutes to drive t<i this point. His view of the terminal was obscured by the? contour of the Island. He was mere for about five minutes, he said, when he noticed smoke coming from the direction of tn,e Gulf oil storage tanks. He was watching the smoke for a short while and then noticed reV balls of flame appearing in it. He decided to drive to a point closer to the Island and set off for Gerahies, a distance of about t w o and a half miles (4 km) from the Old Pier and whick is a point on the coast from which a view of the jetty could be obtained. When he got there, he checked his watch and recalled that the time was 00.50 hours. The fire was then very pig and both the jetty and the tanker seemed to him to be ablaze. Mr. Connolly drove b a c k \ o Bantry and drove arounH the main square and then to his aunt's house. As he was there, a tpassive explosion occurred. He had checked his watch just as he was leaving the door of his Runt's house when the explosion occurred. The time was 01.10 hours. He saw the fire for the first time from the Old Pjer in the town of Bantry. The time was then approximately 00.4^) hours.

.8 The evidence of Mrs. Noreen Murphy Mrs. Murphy lives at Hospital Lodge, Bafttry. She is the night supervisor of the Bantry Telephone Exchange. On the night of the\7th/8th January she remembers checking her watch, noticing that it was 00.30 hours and recalling that she had forgotten to post a letter. She asked her son to go with her and taking her dog also she left her house. She estimated that they got to the Bridge in about ten minute's after she first checked the time. She stopped at the Bridge and then saw "a terrible glow in\the sky and thick, black, smoke rising u p " . She was unable to say, then, where it came from, but she immediately went back to the hospital and called the porter. With him she went to the back of the hospital and then saw a "blazing fire"—i.e. approximately ten minutes after first seeing it. As she realised that the operator in the Bantry Exchange must be very busy she immediately went d o w n to the Exchange to render assistance. \ The witness first saw the fire at 00.40 hours and Confirms its existence at that time. The disaster as seen at 00.45 hours and subsequently 3.9 The evidence of Mr. James O'Leary, Mrs. Noreen O'Leary and Miss Mary O'Leary Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary live on Whiddy Island. Their house is about one and a half miles {2.4 km) from the jetty. It is a two-storied one and Mr. O'Lfcary's bedroom window has some view of the jetty. From it Mr. O'Leary can see the centre platform, but not Dolphin 22. He is an employee of Gulf, working with the Company as a ytility man. O n the night of the disaster Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary and their daughter had gone\to bed. Miss O'Leary was asleep and she recalls being awakened by a rumbling sound. It\was a sound which she found difficult to describe. It was not like thunder but she described it as a "rumbling or banging—a repeated banging noise". She got out of bed and saw black smoke. Initially she saw no flame but after about thirty seconds flames began to appear in the smoke. They got bigger. At first she was not alarmed by what she saw as she. thought it was the ordinary smoke that tankers let off. It was when she saw the flame that she became alarmed. She then

went to her parents' room and awakened her father—three or four minutes having elapsed from the time she first heard the noise to the time she went to her parents' room. She called her father and as he got out of bed and came over to the window of his room he looked at his watch and he said "It is a quarter to one" (00.45 hours). Mr. O'Leary remembers his daughter coming into his bedroom, waking him up and saying "Daddy, there is something wrong with Gulf. It is on fire". Mr. O'Leary jumped out of bed and as he did so he checked his watch and the time was "practically a quarter to one". He looked out the window and he could see smoke and flame. From his window he could see the tanker ana. the centre platform of the jetty. There was fairly intense smoke which "seemed to come out of one patch". The fire seemed to be contained in one area and the smoke appeared ro be coming from somewhere around the manifold of the ship. When he first saw the fire thine was no question of it spreading the length of the ship and it was in the area of the centre pktform. He immediately got dressed and went with his son to a field at the back of the house\a few hundred yards away to get a better view of the fire. At first the smoke was not heavy,unit as the minutes went by, both the smoke and the flames increased. The smoke still blockeo\his vision and he decided to travel down to the sea level going in the direction of a small rocft, off the Island known as "Carrigacloash". When he got down to sea-level the fire was veny extensive. "The whole area was covered in flame". He was, however, only there for a few seconds when the big explosion occurred. He was stunned by it for a couplc of minutes. l\ caused debris to fall around him. He was "absolutely terrified" by the explosion. He returned to his house and collected his family to evacuate the Island. The witness was positive that irom the time he was awoken at no time did he hear the siren on the Control building or on me jetty. The witness could not be sure whether the fire was on the centre platform or whether it was on the ship. He estimated that it would have taken him about six or seven minutes tA get to the hill from which he observed the smoke, and about the same time again to get to. the position on the shore from which he observed the major conflagration. He estimated the big explosion as having occurred between five and ten past one. Mrs. O'Learv corroborated her husbancKs testimony in relation to the time he was awoken. In addition she gave evidence of a telephone call from the postmistress in the post office. This call came after her husband had got dressed and left. She could not be certain as to the exact time but she checked later with the postmistress in the post office who told her that she had booked the call to her at one o'clock. The message she got from the postmistress was to the effect that Mr. Connolly had telephoned andlae wanted the men collected to go down and help fight the fire. As to the siren, she said she would hear the siren on the terminal when it went off but she did not hear it on the nightVf the disaster. It is of relevance to note that Mrs. O'Leary was qdoted in the public press of 11th January as stating that her daughter^liad seen the fire at 00.45 nours and that, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. O'Leary was an employee of Gulfs, no effost was made by Gulf to contact him and to obtain a statement from him or any member of\his family—a matter which will be adverted to again in paragraph 8.5.6.

The evidence o f Mrs. Anne Murphy Mrs. Murphy is the wife of Doctor Matt Murphy and lives atViurteen Roe which is halfway between Bantry and Ballylickey. On Sunday evening t h e y t h of January her husband received a phone call at approximately 22.50 hours in connection with a drowning at the pier at Bantry. He left to attend to it. She recalls being in bed reading a newspaper when she received a telephone call from her husband. Her husband told her to look out the window to see the fire on Whiddy Island. She is quite certain that she rcceivecMie call at 00.45 hours as he looked at her clock by her bed-side when she received it. She rooked out the window nd saw a lot of flame coming up over Whiddy Island from the direction of the terminal. ie went upstairs and looked at the fire from an upstairs window fV "approximately 15 •~utes . She recalls coming down the stairs and as she was doinjz so she recalled a nendous explosion". When she returned upstairs and looked ouAthe window "the jple sky was alight and flames were shooting up into the sky". Before tne major explosion were a lot of crackling sounds and smaller explosions. 53

The evidence o f Mr. Peter Tynan O'Mahony and Mr. Jack O'Shea Mr. Tynan O'Mahony is a journalist. On the night of the disaster he was staying! bungalow owned by friends of his at Ardaturrish. The bungalow is about two hundred 1 (61 m) above sea-level and affords an excellent view of the jetty and tankers berthed He had noticed th^tanker at 11.00 hours on the morning of Sunday the 7th January I described her as "ramshackle" and as "looking rusty" and recalls that at 16.00 hours ir afternoon she had risen a bit in the water. He went out later in the evening, returning to bungalow at about 23.w0 hours. He had some supper sitting on a sofa and then went to 1 diningroom table and saKpn a chair in the middle of the room. The curtains on the windov of the room were fully open. There were two big windows about fifteen inches (381 mnil off the ground and six feetYl.8 m) high. As he was working at the diningroom table (witra his back about three quarters turned away from the window) he heard a noise—a thumps which was followed within ren or twenty seconds by a second very noticeable thump. He looked up and turned around and looked out the window and immediately saw that the ship was on fire. What be saw was & very big fire and as he saw it it seemed "to go east". It was; big light and it seemed to move very quickly east. He picked up binoculars and then saw that the fire seemed to be in the\centre of the ship. The fire was oblong and the flame was running east in an oblong on theVsea as well. The flames were on the sea between him and > the ship and there was a trail of flime behind the ship. There was then a lot of smoke rising very quickly and in the smoke itself there were plumes of flame reaching up suddenly very high. He had two cameras with h i m \ n the room at the time. He picked up the camera with black and white film in it and opened the door to go out. As soon as he did there was a volume of noise, crackling and rumbling and "almost a hiss a/ well". Over a period of two minutes he took a sequence of four films\He then decided to try to take colour photographs and went back to the house, obtained the itinera with colour film in and came out again. He then took three shots. He then decided to visit a friend of his, a neighbour, Mr. O'Shea. Before leaving the house he turned off the light and as he was going through the veranda the radio was still on and he heard the BBC 1 o'clock news come on the air. He does not carry a watch and working back from the radio signal at 01.00 hours he estimated that he first saw the fire at "about a quarter to one or ten to one". The drive to his friend's house would take about three minutes. He aroused him and estimated that possfyily eight to ten minutes had elapsed from the time he left his own house to the time of the tijajor explosion which he witnessed from his friend's house. This was a huge flame, with a Very white core of light, followed by a huge explosion which the witness found terrifyiftg. Mr. O'Mahony took two further photographs from Mr. O'Shea's house after the bia explosion. Mr. Jack O'Shea recalls being awakened by his friendyMr. O'Mahony. He got dressed and dashed downstairs. He went to look to see what the fire^was like and proceeding about forty yards he had an unobstructed view. He saw a raging firV with heavy black smoke. He then went into the house to try to telephone and the big explosion occurred when he was on the telephone waiting for the Bantry Exchange to answer, rais recollection is that when first alerted he did not wish to turn on the light as there was a small baby in the bedroom and he looked at his watch which has a luminous dial and has\ "the impression" that it was approximately ten to one. Obviously in the light of Mr. Tyram O'Mahony's testimony the witness's recollection as to the time when he was alerted isVnot an accurate one. Mr. Tynan O'Mahony confirms that certainly by 00.50 hours tne fire was a very substantial one. It was then in its second phase. It is quite possible that theVthumps" which he heard were explosions. His evidence also establishes that in the early part of the second phase the fire had spread to the water on the starboard side of the vessel. An expert Gulf witness calculated from the photographs taken by Mr. O'Mahony that at the time they were taken (at 00.50 hours approximately) the fire extended for 750 metres. He expressed the opinion (prefacing it by stating that it was not a precise one) that it would have taken ten or fifteen minutes for the oil to have spread to the extent shown in the photograph, and in the calculations he made he assumed that the incident must have commenced at about 00.40 hours (notwithstanding Gulfs dispatcher's evidence and the evidence of the crew of the "Donemark" to the contrary). Accepting the limitations of the opinion, it is nonetheless obvious that the oil from the tanker must have spread a very

considerable distance when the photograph was taken and the photograph is strongly supportive evidence that the tanker must have broken her back at least ten or fifteen minutes before it was taken.


The evidence of Mr. Vivian O'Callaghan and Mrs. Eijfen O'Callaghan Mr. O'Callaghan lives in the Bantry Bay Hotel in Wolfe Tone Square near the waterfront. In the aarly hours of the morning of the 8th of January a ring came to the hall door. When he answered it he was asked by a friend, Mr, O'Donoghue, " D o you realise there is a fire on the Island^". He went into the middle of the Square and he could see quite clearly that there was a fire on the Island and, he then thought, the tank farm. It was then "a very substantial fire". He estimated that when he first saw the fire the time was 00.45 hours. His estimate is based firstly oil the fact that he had checked the time previously at 00.30 hours, and secondly because he recalls being in the Square for about fifteen minutes before the clock in the Square sounded-pne o'clock. Mr. O'Callaghan's estimate of the time obtains confirmation from the evidence of Mrs. O'Callaghan (Mr. O'Callaghan's mother) who remembers the ring at the door and remembers that her son had said to her a little time before it "it is a quarter to one anmit is time we were all in bed long ago". Whilst Mr. O'Callaghan did not check his watch when he first saw the fire it would appear to be probable that saw it first very close to 00.45 hours.

5.3.13 The evidence of Mrs. ^llen Shanahan and Mr. Denis O'Leary Mrs. Ellen Shanahan lives aMUarraha on Whiddy Island. On the night of the 7th of January she went visiting her nephew at Bishop Lucey Place in the town of Bantry. She left her nephew's house (with Mr. ano\Mrs. Michael O'Leary and Mr. and Mrs. Denis O'Leary) at "about twenty or twenty-five t \ one". They walked in the direction of "Cove Strand". As she was going there she saw smokfc coming from the direction of Whiddy. She estimates that this was about three or four minutes after she had left her nephew's house. Later she sawflames in the smoke. Mr. Denis O'Leary thinks that he left Bishop Lucey Place at about "twenty-five to one". He said that they had been walking for "about five minutes or so" and that as they came down Cove Road he saw smoke coming frormthe direction of the Island. They travelled across to the Island and as they were doing so M ^ O'Leary heard a small explosion and it was then that he first saw fire in the sky. Although these witnesses^ estimate as to thit time of the fire is an approximate one, none the less their evidence establishes the existence\of a fire at 00.45 hours.

The evidence of Mr. Patrick O'Hehir Mr. O'Hehir lives in the Green Acres Hotel. Ob the night of the 7th January he had been looking at television and had finished doing so, hathinks, at about 23.40 hours. He then had a drink and some time later his wife went to the kitchen to make some sandwiches. On her return from the kitchen she said "look out the window; Whiddy is on fire". The witness immediately went to the window and he saw thAfire. It was, he said, shaped "like a pyramid". It was rapidly increasing and going in th«\direction of the Island. There was a black trail of smoke coming from it and going to his lefm distance of about 3 miles (4.8 km). As the fire was increasing there were rumbling noises emanating from it. Initially the fire was in one spot but it spread to the left of the jetty and to \ smaller degree to the right of the water Bp' ° n - He estimated that the time when he first\aw the fire was "about 12.40 or •45 . He saw and heard the big explosion which, he saic^ rattled every window in his

is evidence confirms that at 00.45 hours, approximately, the firt: was on the water and that ^was spreading to both sides of the jetty, but more towards the Inland than to the starboard " of the vessel. 55


Miss Anne Creedon and Mr. Joseph Ring a school teacher by occupation. On the night of the 7th/8th Janua Miss Creedon drove in her car with Mr. Joseph Ring to the West Lodge Hotel with the intentii c\v attending a dan^e there. She stopped outside the hotel and listened to the band for a but she and her Companion decided not to go to the dance. She looked at her watch as< were leaving and remarked to Mr. Ring that the time was 12.20. Mr, Ring confirmed: Miss Creedon's recollection in this regard was accurate. They drove first to\Miss Creedon's house. This is situated at Dromleigh South (in the s® area as that of Mr. yan Os). The journey took them about ten minutes. When the car ^ stopped outside her Iqome, Miss Creedon heard a rumbling sound which she took to thunder. She asked Mr. Ring whether he thought it was thunder. He recalls this rem! being made. Mr. Ring\also recalls hearing a thundering noise, and Miss Creedon decid that she would drive him back to town. He thought that they had been talking for abo three or four minutes wh6fi first he noticed the thunder. When Mr. Ring first heard thought to be thunder he looked in the direction of Whiddy and saw that the sky was rel. Before Miss Creedon droveXback to town, he decided to get out of the car. He then noticeif that there was a blaze in the \ k y in the direction of Whiddy. He also noticed smoke. It was? very high in the sky. The estimates of time which these witnesses gave were based on the fact that they had left the West Lodge Hotel at 00.20 Hours. When they got to the town of Bantry they saw Garda ; Byrne emerging from a shop ana going to the squad car. Miss Creedon spoke to him and learnt that the fire was on Whidav Island. She thought thats'thc time she met Garda Byrne was 00.40 hours approximately, bite she is obviously inaccurate in this estimation, as Garda Byrne had been at the West Lodge Hotel and did not leave it until 00.45, and he had returned to the Garda Station beforeNhe met Miss Creedon and Mr. Ring in the town. This inaccuracy, however, does not justify si rejection of all the evidence of these witnesses. Their evidence helps to corroborate the othet evidence in the case which establishes that the fire was a very large one by 00.45 hours. Miss Creedon gave evidence of making a\telephone call from a public phone box and overhearing (by accident) a caller on the Ime saying "This is Whiddy Island, send fire brigades and ambulances". It is not possible to know who exactly was making this call, but as she heard it after her meeting with Garda Byrne it was made some considerable time after the first alert from the Island had occurred.

SECTION 3 4.1 The Garda evidence: the alerting of the ekiergency services: the time o f the major explosion This section considers the Garda evidence as to v&hen and how they were first alerted to the disaster, the alert of the fire brigade service, and the time of the major explosion. This major explosion figures prominently in the account of th<» disaster given by many witnesses, and it is possible to fix the time of its occurrence to withii) two minutes. There were a number of explosions heard in the course of the disaster, but as \he major explosion (which occurred at 01.06—01.08 hours) was accompanied simultaneously! by the sound of the fire siren in the town of Bantry it is possible to identify it with precisiton when it is referred to in the course of a witness's testimony. \

4.2 Garda Flynn had come on duty at midnight on the m^ht of the 7th/8th January. He was sitting in the Garda Station in Bantry reading a newspaper. The thought crossed his mind that things were "nice and quiet" and he checked his witch and recalls that it was about 00.40 hours when he did so. Shortly after this Mr, Vincent Keane arrived at the Station in an excited condition and called to Garda Flynn to come out to see the fire. He .went to the front door of the Station and looked towards the installations on Whiddy Island and he could see a fire in that direction and smoke going up into the sky. He could just see over the hill and could make out a brightness rather than flames. He discussed ^ith Vincent Keane where the fire might be and Mr. Keane expressed the view that the fire r^ust be at the oil installation.


Garda Flynn decided to check and see if there was any news and he went back to the Garda Station and put a call through to the Bantry Exchange. He asked the operator for Whiddv Island Control and the operator said that "all lines to Whiddy were open" which the witness took to mean that the lines were engaged. Garda Flynn said to the operator "I think there is something wrortg out in Whiddy" and the operator replied "I think there is: they are trying to make contact with Mr. Ash". The witness was satisfied that the operator to whom he was talking was Mr. Kevin Lynch, who is known to Garda Flynn personally. Garda Flynn put down tnp phone and went out again to look at the fire. The fire was still raging so he returned to \he Garda Station and made contact with the squad car. Garda Flynn estimates that he made the telephone call to the Bantry Exchange at 00.45 hours. The evidence of Garda Flynn is corroborated by the evidence of Mr. Keanc. He was a member of the Bantry Fire Brigade ancnearly on Monday the 8th of January he was travelling down Wolfe Tone Square in Bantr\\with Mr. and Mrs. Gerard O'Donoghue. As he was doing so he saw a lot of smoke coming\ from over Whiddy and a glow in the sky. He thought that what he saw was a fire on tanl^ five. The smoke was very heavy and it was high in the sky and it was then reaching the lAainland from the Island. As he was passing the Station he stopped the car and decided to feo in to see if he could get any news from the Gardai. He estimates the time that this happ^ied as being "approximately 12.45". He saw Garda Flynn in the Station and when Garda Rlynn had seen the fire he recalled that he returned to the Station to telephone. He recalled fliat Garda Flynn stated to him that he had been in contact with Mr. Kevin Lynch who wasUware of the emergency on the Island. In view of the very serious conflict of evidence in the case between the Gulf and other versions of the disaster this evidence is of crucial importance. Neither Garda Flynn's accuracy nor honesty was impugned\in any way (Gulfs attack on the veracity of the Garda evidence was confined to that giveinby Garda Joy and Garda Byrne). Indeed it would be verv difficult to do so with any conviction as the fact that he called the Bantry Exchange, the message he was given, and the time it took place were all confirmed by independent testimony. This evidence establishes tl\at the dispatcher at Gulf Control was aware of the disaster at approximately 00.45 hours,\and that at that time efforts were being made to contact Gulfs manager by phone. \ Garda joy and Garda Byrne were on dut\\in the squad car. At about 23.00 hours on Sunday the 7th of January they had been patrolling close to Bantry town at a place called Seafield, which is on the sea-front opposite the lodge leading to the back entrance of Bantry House, when they came across a drowning accident. Having investigated the accident, they returned to the Station'and left the Station vugain at 00.20 hours to go to the West Lodge Hotel to carry out further investigation into\he tragedy. There was a dance in progress in the hotel. They left the car park but were called back to the entrance of the hotel as a visitor's car had been damaged by a person apparently under the influence of drink. Garda Byrne returned to the hotel to make contact with the owner of the damaged car. As he did so he checked the time and remembers that it was 00.40 hours. Having made contact with the owner of the car he left the dance hall to go ta the squad car. As he was doing so he saw the fire and black smoke. As he got to the car tiarda Joy said to him "come on—it is Whiddy". Garda Byrne checked his watch for a sqcond time just as he was getting into the car and the time was then 00.45 hours. When Garda Byrne had gone into the hotel Garda Jew remained outside and endeavoured to keep the person suspected of damaging the car in the\patrol car. The suspect got out and as Garda Byrne was endeavouring to put him back intc the patrol car he looked and saw a glow in the sky over the hill directly opposite the hotel. It was a massive glow and he saw thick black smoke. He immediately got on to the radio and as he was going to the microphone a call came through from the Station and Garda Flynn said "Whiddy is on fire . Garda Joy replied "I have seen it: we will return \traight away". Just as he stated this . Garda Byrne arrived and they set off immediately for tl\c Station. Garda Joy recalls Garda ' Byrne remarking that the time was a quarter to one. WhAi Garda Joy entered the Station he asked Garda Flynn whether he had contacted Gulf Contrbl and was told that Garda Flynn had tried but had failed. Garda Joy told him to try again ahd as he was doing so Garda joy, on another phone, telephoned Superintendent McMahonVo report the incident. Garda Flynn's second attempt to get through to Gulf ContrdJ was successful. He had a brief 57

conversation. Garcia Flynn asked the person to whom he was talking whether they wif trouble, The voice answered—"Yes' . Garda Flynn asked did they need assistance andlS told that they "needed all the assistance they could get". Garda Flynn shouted^]! information to Garda Joy who was then talking on the other phone to Superintend McMahon. It is clear that this c o n v e r s i o n with Gulf Control took place at approximatf 00.50 hours. 5.4.4 Superintendent McMahon was the D: strict Officer in charge of the Bantry district on tl night of the disaster. He lives in a hous which is a mile (1.6 km) from the Station and wh'il overlooks Bantry Bay. He has a clear view of Whiddy Island but can only see the top of tt storage tanks at the terminal. Superintendent McMahon was asleep when Garda J o | telephoned him. He cannot be sure of he time but places it between 00.45 and 00.55 hours! In response to the information given to him by Garda Joy he looked out the window and hg saw that the sky was lit up over WhicSdy and a huge column of smoke was rising over the! Island. The fire was then of "gigantic1, proportions". He instructed Garda Joy to put thelf major accident plan into operation andjbe then immediately drove to the Station. Just as he.--' entered the Station he heard a huge explosion. He estimated that it would have taken him 5 approximately fourteen minutes to get] to the Station from the time he first received the telephone call from Garda Joy, Evidence of members of the Bantry Fire Brigade Mr, Patrick Keane, having been told of fhe telephone conversation which Garda Flynn had with Mr. Kevin Lynch, ran from the Garda Station to the hpme of Mr. Hugh McCarthy, j the local fire officer. Mr. McCarthy and himself then travelled down to the pier. From the pier he could see a huge amount of smoke and flames visible over the Island and a red glow over the Island. The flames had then becopie more intense than when he had first seen them. Having viewed the scene from the pier he drove back to the Station. Just as they got to the door of the Station there was a tremendoti.s explosion. At the same time the Bantry fire siren sounded. When the explosion occurred Mr. Keane checked the time. It was 01.06 hours. Prior to this he had not looked at his iwatch and his evidence was to the effect that approximately twenty minutes had passedifrom the time he first saw the fire. This estimate was, however, a very approximate one. 5 Mr. Hugh McCarthy is a fire officer employed by the Cork County Council. He estimated that Mr. Keane called to his house at possibly ten to eight minutes to one. Before he left his home he could see that there was a majorfifie in the direction of Whiddy. The sky was lit up and on entering the Square at Bantry it was ^bvious that there was a major fire on the Island. He was satisfied that it was a fire either at the tank farm, the terminal or a ship at the terminal. On returning to the station he recalls a major explosion and looking at his watch and observing that the time by bis watch w^s "just after five past one". Later he recorded the explosion as occurring at 01.06. Mr. McCarthy alerted the outside services, that is to say the Dunmanway fire service, the Skibbereenjfire service and the County Fire Officer, all of whom he telephoned from the Garda Station. Mr. Donnellan, the station officer of the Skibbereen Fire Brigade, confirmed that he ifcceived the call from Mr. McCarthy at 01.08. And Mr. Crowley, the station officer of the Dunmanway Fire Brigade, confirmed that he received the call from McCarthy at 01,10 h^urs. Mr. Andrew Hodnett was the station officer attached to Bantry Fire Brigade. His testimony was to the effect that Garda Flvnn telephones him at 01,04 hours—an approximate time arrived at by a process of estimating the tirr^e from subsequent events. He immediately commenced to get dressed and asked his wife t^i ring Mr. McCarthy and to sound the siren. He dressed and as he was going down the stiairs he heard "an awful explosion" and at approximately the same time the fire siren was set off. He ran to the fire station and the siren was still operating when he reached it. The evidence of Mr. Muckley (another member of the brigade) is considered in paragraphs 7.5.1 and 7.5.3. 5.4.6 The evidence of Mr. Hung Fat W o n g Mr. Wong was the second mate of the "Bilbao" \ ^ c h , on the night of the 7th/8th January,


was anchored in Bantry Bay awaiting an opportunity to berth at the terminal to discharge its :argo of oil. It was anchored 8.2 miles (13.2 km) from the jetty. Mr. Wong was on watch in the bridge wheel-house from midnight. He was second officer of the watch and remained on watch until 04.00 hours. .The wind was south-westerly and the "Bilbao" was facing into it. Thus the wheel-house was facing a w a y j i o m the jetty. There is, however, a window in the wheel-house which gave V view up the Bay. The first sign of the disaster which Mr. Wong had was the message he heard on the VHF radio. This radio was tuned to Channel 16. The witness stated that he only tjeard the middle part of the message and he could make out the two words "on fire". He described the voice which conveyed the message as "screaming" and as talking in a very fast Way and in a very excited manner. Almost at the same time as hearing this message the quarter-master, who was also on watch in the wheel-house, reported to the witness that something was on fire. The witness went from the wheel-house to the bridge wing and looked towards the terminal through his binoculars. He could see a fire which he described as being "at Whiddy Island jetty". It was spreading throughout the whole length of the jetty in his opinion. At first the fire was low on the sea horizon but later the flames got "higher and higher". He immediately reported the fire to the Captain. He was not quite certain of the time when he first heard the message on the radio but he thinks that it was about 01.00 hours. A4 exactly 01.08 there was an explosion at the jetty. He did not hear the explosion but saw high flames in the sky. Immediately he checked the time on his watch and entered the time in Sie log. Subsequent to the explosion he heard conversation on Channel 16. There had been Wong periods of silence but then he heard a three way conversation on Channel 16. He could not understand most of what was being said but he recalled some one saying "stop th^ fire reaching the Island". The "Bilbao" did not berth at Bantry. A few days after the disaster Mr. Wong was interviewed by the Amsterdam polici who took a statement from him. He did not read over the statement and he stated to the Tribunal in evidence that parts of it were incorrect. The statement read that he had informed \he Dutch police that he overheard someone saying "the skip is on fire" but the witness was quite clear that he had not been so specific in his statement. \ The voice which this witness heard on Channel 16 (which he described as "screaming") was, quite clearly, that of the dispatcher Who used this Channel to alert the tug "Bantry Bay" to the emergency, (see: paragraph a4.3). SECTION 4 Other eye-witness evidence \ \

The Gardai had taken written statements from a Considerable number of persons whom they believed might be able ,to assist in establishing \ h e facts of the disaster. In addition, the solicitors for some of the parties represented before the Tribunal had obtained written statements. All persons who made statements eithento the Gardai or to the parties' solicitors were asked to give evidence before the Tribunal and, with one or two exceptions, all this testimony was obtained. Obviously not all of the oersons who were interviewed had the same opportunity to observe the disaster, and inevitaftly some of the witnesses were not able to state precisely the time of the events they recalled, ©tbers could not remember very much about the events: in a few cases the witnesses' recollection was obviously mistaken. It has not been considered necessary to do other than outline the salient features of the testimony referred to in this paragraph, as the fact A of the disaster have been amply established by the evidence reviewed in earlier paragraphs. But in view of tSe submission made by Gulf that the confusion and inconsistency in theeye-witness evidence would justify the rejection of most of it, it has been thought desirabli to indicate the nature of all the evidence which the Tribunal received. \

^ Miss Siobhan O'Sullivan and Miss Elizabeth O'Sullivin, who live at Eagle Point, v lv:Ballylickey, were two witnesses whose recollection as to tha time at which events occurred obviously very approximate. Nonetheless their evidmce was of assistance to the ™raihunal. Miss Siobhan O'Sullivan had gone to bed at about\midnight on the night of the anuary. She read in bed for some time. She noticed a "knocking noise". It was not very


loud but it was continuous. It seemed to her to be coming from the kitchen and she g6i% investigate it. She then went back to bed and continued reading. Some time later she 1*. what she then thought was thunder but which/ she is now satisfied must have bee'" explosion. Then she heard a large explosion. Shejwent into her sister's room and saw L of fire over Whiddy Island. The witness thoug it that she had been in bed about twen minutes before the knocking sound started and or a further half an hour before the laif explosion occurred. Miss Elizabeth O'Sullivan lad gone to bed but was only half a s j | f when her attention was attracted by the restlessm ss of her dog, and by the fact that her i had gone to the kitchen. About ten minutes late;- she heard a "loud hammering noise-—W something you would Fiear in a blacksmith's". Tljiis lasted about two or three minutes. Thefe were heavy bangs at first, which got more frequent and then became faint. After some minutes she heard an explosion. She was not alarmed by this as she had heard similar explosions on other occasions. Ten minutes latejr there was a louder explosion. Again, she was not disturbed by this and she went asleep She was, however, awakened by a loud explosion, the one "that blew the tanker". She gj>t out of bed and saw the sky was "glowing orange red" and she saw a cloud of black sm^ke. Whilst the estimates of time given by these twe witnesses are obviously very approximate, their testimony is of importance in that it describes the sounds they heard—sounds which obviously emanated from the "Betelgeuse". It confirms that there were at least two explosions before the major explosion. 5.5.3 Mr. Jeremiah O'Riordan is a witness who recalls hearing unusual noises on the night of the disaster, and the major explosion about ten miniites later, but hf cannot place any time when these incidents occurred. Similarly, Mr. Timothy Murphy,,1 who lives in a caravan at Ballylickey, recalls hearing very loud noises lik; a powerful engine, and later a "big blast", but he cannot say the times these occurred. Likewise, Mrs Kathleen Lynch recalls hearing strange noises followed by a minor explosion ; nd then by a big explosion, but cannot say with any precision what time she heard these sounds. Miss Mary O'Brien, who lives at Caherdaniel West, Bantry, had got to bed at about 00.55 hours. She remembered hearing the loud explosion and the sound of the siren at Bantrv immediately afterwards but cannot say what time these occurred. Mr. Stephen Osbbrne lives in a house near the water's edge at Ardaturrish. He went to bed at about midnight and read for approximately half an hour. At about 00.40 or 00.45 hours he remembers hearing a "small explosion or thunder or a rumble" from the direction of Whiddy and five minutes later he heard another small explosion or "thunder" and at "about one o'clock" he heard the massive explosion. He then went to the front of the house and "got the i npression that Whiddy was on fire". From there he was able to see the blaze at the Island. Whilst this witness cannot say precisely what time the explosions occurred his evidence doe; help to establish that there were two small explosions before the major explosion and thit these probably occurred some time after 00.45 hours, Dr. Mary Hughes and Dr. Peter Hughes live at Derrycreha House at Glengarriff. On the evening of the 7th of January they had a visito , Mr. Michael Harnett. As they were seeing Mr. Harnett out of their home he called out tc them and as a result they went out and saw that the whole sky was lit up. Neither Dr. M; ry Hughes nor Dr. Peter Hughes could say exactly what the time was. They saw the ship it the jetty. Dr. Mary Hughes stated that the fire was in the middle section of the ship. It was then a "raging inferno". Doctor Peter Hughes was under the impression that the fire A'as on the tank farm. Miss Mary O'Sullivan and Mr. William O'Sullivan live at Ardaturris , between Ballylickey and Glengarriff. Miss Marv O'Sullivan went to bed at about 23.00 Hours on the night of the 7th of January. She stated that she heard "banging noises" which wsnt on for some time and then she saw a very bright light in the window. She got up and sa\* big flames" on the oil terminal. She woke her parents and went with them to the lounge o their house. She stated that after a while she looked at her watch and noticed the time as 0( .40 hours. She stayed watching the fire and remembers the big explosion—at, she thinks, so me time after 01.00 hours. She saw flames on the ship and all along the front of the Island. Si e said that "it was like as if the whole Island was on fire". Mr. O'Sullivan remembers goin ; to bed and being awoken by his daughter rushing into the room and saying "Daddy, W liddy Island is on fire". He thought that she came into his room at 00.45 hours. From the de cription of the fire it would appear that it is

likely that they first saw it somewhere in the region of 00.40 to 00.45 hours. Mrs. Marian Hurley lives at 75, Bishop Lucey Place in the town of Bantry. She remembered that early in the morning of the 8th of January she was getting ready to go to bed and that she was kneeling at the fire whan she heard a rumbling sound, a sound which later she thought might have been the sound of a minor explosion. She then went upstairs and went to the window of their spare bedroom. From there she observed the fire at Whiddy Island. When she saw it, it was a very extensive one. She aroused her husband and they went to the hall door. The smoke from the firs was then over their house. As she was at the door white and black blobs of material began o fall around her (specimens of which were produced at the hearing). After staying some vhile at her front door she then went down to visit a neighbour, Mrs. Coughlan. She was in Mrs. Coughlan's house when she first heard an explosion. It was a small one. Lat :r she heard what she described as a "huge" explosion, Mrs. Hurlev's estimate of the time when she first saw the fire is obviouslv not an accurate one. She stated that her clock w is ten minutes fast and that she saw the fire at 00.30 hours—which would mean that t le fire had started at 00.20 hours, if her testimony was correct. It would appear from her descriptic:n of what she saw when she went to the front door, and, in particular, the position of the smoke over her house and the explosions which she subsequently heard, that she must pave seen the fire for the first time when it reached its second phase. Miss Mary Somers, vho lives at Derrycreha, could not be certain about the time at which she heard an unusua noise. She thought that it was at about 00.30 hours and she got the impression that there were cattle outside her house. She went to bed but continued to hear noises intermitt intly which went on for about twenty minutes or so. Finally she got out of bed at about 01.00 hours. She then saw the fire. She considered that from half to three quarters of the t;nker was on fire. "A few seconds" after she had got up she witnessed the big explosion. Mr Edgar Battle thought he saw the fire at 00.30 hours and he thought the major explosion oc curred at 00.55 hours. Mrs. Millie Battle thought she heard a siren from Whiddy Island at 00.30 hours but this would appear to be inaccurate as it was not heard by any other witne; s at that or any later time. j.4 Mr. Michael Carroll is the Managing Director of Carroll Shipping Limited. He was in bed in the early hours of the 8th of January when he received a telephone call from the dispatcher at Gulf Control. Mr. Connolly said "Is that you Mick? We have a fire out here. Get everything you have out fast". Mr. Carroll said that he tried to get a connection by telephone to the skippers of his boats ftut failed after trying for about five minutes. He then decided to get up and as he was doinglso the main explosion occurred, an explosion which shook the whole house. He went dowri to the pier and started up the "Sea Trakker", one of the boats owned by hisjtompany. A Mr. Tommy Sullivan came on board and the witness thought that Mr. John'Lynam also came on board. The last person to board the ship was Captain Kelly, who came aboard just as they were going astern. As he was leaving the pier he radioed to his wife at home and checked the time with her. The witness gave the times of the various occurrences which he described but his recollection would appear to be somewhat inaccurate. He considered that he received the telephone call from Mr. Connolly at 00.48 hours. This may well be correct!but he stated that what he thought was "the main explosion", which was followed immediately by the Bantry Fire Station siren, occurred at 00.55 hours (which is not correct). He stlted that as he was leaving the pier he checked the time with his wife by radio and that it was 01.05 hours, but there is other evidence which would suggest that the "Sea Trakker" dim not leave Bantry Pier until 01.12 hours; this will be considered in Chapter 7. Mrs. Cynthia Kilroy lives at Ballylickey She was awakened by her dog barking and she looked out the window and she saw a rei 1 glow from the direction of Whiddy Island. She looked at the fire from her window and remembers the terrific explosion which occurred. She gave evidence to the effect that when she first turned on the light and saw the glow in the sky the time was 00.30 hours. Mrs. Helen Courcey lives on Whiddy Island and she returned from the mainland on the morning of Monday the 8th of January at about 00.15 hours arriving at her own house at approximately 00.35 hours. She recalls that at about 00.50 hours she heard a noise like

thunder. She then heard a banging noise and she then related how her brother, Barry Desmond, ran in to notify ht^ of the emergency. Mr. Desmond stated "get up quick. John Connolly is after telephoning tcisay there is a fire at the jetty and he needs help". Mrs. Courcey is not able to state the times of these different occurrences with any accuracy. Mrs. Catherine Evans lives in Wolfe Tope Square in the town of Bantry. She was in bed reading on the night of the 7th/8th Januaryiand recalls hearing voices in the Square and her daughter coming into the room to alert her tb the emergency. She got up and went into the Square at between 01.00 and 01.05 hours, she thinks. When she went out she saw a "big cloud of smoke" and "fire coming from t]^; direction of the terminal". She heard a number of minor explosions, and she remembers the major explosion and she saw from the Square a massive ball of fire ascend into the sky several hundred feet and heard the windows of her house rattle. She is not, however, able to state with any precision what time this occurred. Miss Kathleen Minihane, one of the supervisors in the Bantry Telephone Exchange, was at the dance in the West Lodge Hotel on the night of the 7th/8th January. She observed the fire from the hotel at about 01.05 hours. SHe realised that there was an emergency and she went down to the Telephone Exchange immediately to help. Mr. Maurice Goggin lives on the Island! but was not aware of the disaster until the major explosion occurred. The noises which helheard in the evening were obviously unrelated to the casualty. Mr. Vincent Harrington liVes at Gour, Castletownbere. He was travelling home from visiting his sister on the night\of the disaster, and as he was at Gour Bridge he obtained a view of Whiddy Island and he saw the fire. He was then a distance of about fifteen miles (24 km) from the Island. He estimates that the time "was then about 00.45 hours, an estimate based on the time he left his sister's house and the distance he had travelled before he saw the fire. i

SECTION 5 5.6.1 The evidence o f the Post-mistress on Whiddy Island Mrs. Catherine Desmond is the post-mistress im Whiddy Island. She did not actually see the fire but her evidence is of importance in relation to two matters. On the night of Sunday the 7th of January she was expecting her son and daughter home by boat from Bantry. She went out of her home to look to see if they wereYcoming. It was, she says, after midnight "at approximately five minutes past twelve". She didn't see her son's boat but she saw the lights of the "Donemark" as it pulled away from the pier. She had frequently seen the "Donemark" and knew its lights well. As will appear later, there is a very considerable controversy in this case as to the time the "Donemark" left Bantry Pier and Mrs. Desmond's testimony helps in establishing that it was "pmlling out" from the Pier not long after midnight. \ Mrs. Desmond's son and daughter arrived at about 00.20 hours. Having given them a cup of tea she went to bed. The phone rang at 00.50 hours. She recalls the time exactly because her husband said " W h o is ringing so late?" and she looked at the time and replied "It is ten minutes to one". She saw the time from her alarmVclock. It was Mr. Connolly, from Gulf Control, on the line. Mr. Connolly said to her than there was a tanker on fire and he asked her to get her husband to come and help and to get Rome men to help also. Mrs. Desmond's testimony, which was accurate and clear, conflicts with that of Mr. Connolly, whose evidence is considered in the next Chapter. In that evidence he stated that he did not become aware of the disaster until 00.55 hours. \ It should also be noted that Mrs. Desmond could cinly be contacted through the Bantry Telephone Exchange. This means that the operator 1there must have received this call at 00.50 hours. The call to Mrs. Desmond would be Imv down on the dispatcher's order of priorities and it is likely that calls to others had Seen made prior to the dispatcher's conversation with her. \ 5.7.1 Summary o f the Tribunal's conclusions \

The Tribunal's principal conclusions on the evidence considered in this Chapter are as follows: \




r + w - ^ i r , i tHig^v^^.v •nl^-cH-', .•"-». »f 00.31 •00.32 hours, at which Mmi. vonndn like fetmnhrnrder wepe-heard-X fire was observed which appeared to be a small and localised one, and to be on the ship just forward of the manifold. It gradually increased in intensity and suddenly spread on both sides of the vessel, giving the impression on the starboard side that it had developed aft of the manifold the whole length o'f the ship. The fire was accompanied by a large plume of dense smoke, which was not observed on the north-western coa^ of the Bay, but was clearly visible from the other parts of the Bay. The sudden development of the fire occurred at approximately 00.40 hours. N o explosions were seen or observed by those watching the ship and jetty during the first phase of the disaster, other than the initial sound like distant thunder which had been heard at the commencement of the casualty. The^econd ^hase. •S^ffs lasted from approximately 00.40 hours until 01.06-01.08 hours, at which time a massive explosion occurred. During the second phase a number of smaller explosions took place, the first of which being at about 00.50 hours approximately. The fire at the beginning of the second phase was for a time somewhat limited in intensity, but it later expanded considerably in size. Garda Flynn, who was on duty in the Garda Station in Bantry, was alerted to the disaster at 00.45 hours approximately. He saw the fire from the entrance to the Station and immediately tried to telephone Gulf Control at Whiddy but he was told by the operator in the Bantry Exchange that all lines were busy and that Gulf Control was aware of the disaster. He radioed for the patrol car which was then at the West Lodge Hotel, outside the town. The fire bad been observed at 00.45 hours by Garda Joy and Garda Byrne who were on duty at the hotel and as they were about to make contact with the Station, Garda Flynn came through to them on the radio. They returned immediately to the Station. Superintendent McMahon was alerted to the emergency and immediately g a v e X \ instructions that the major accident plan be put into operation. The local fire officer was alerted, and the Bantry fire-siren was sounded just at the time of the major explosion. This occurred at between 01.06 and 01.08 hours. The outside fire services at Dunmanway and Skibbereen were alerted. A considerable number of persons gave evidence as to what they had seen and heard on the night of the disaster. Although a few, indeed a very few, witnesses were inaccurate or confused about some of the events or the time at which they occurred, nearly all the individual versions were consistent with each other, and it was possible to cross-check and confirm important matters of detail from more than one source. As a result, the Tribunal has been able to establish with a considerable degree of accuracy the time the disaster commenced, its nature, and its development. Shortly after midnight the post-mistress on Whiddy Island saw the "Donemark" leave the pier at Bantry. This evidence assists in establishing that the "Donemark" did not leave the pier at 00.15 hours as its crew claimed. At 00.50 hours she received a telephone call from the dispatcher at Gulf Control telling her that the tanker was on fire and asking her husband to get help. This assists in showing that the dispatcher was aware of the disaster before O0.55 hours.