Major Steam Casualty Incident

USS Intrepid (CVA-11) Major Steam Casualty Incident

of 25 April, 1961 as remembered by:

Former crew member, YN2, David E. Benedict, USN, “R” Division,

Leading Yeoman of the Engineering Department

   I reported aboard the Intrepid in October 1958 and transferred in July 1961. My initial assignment in the Engineering Department was “B” Division, No. 2 Fire Room. I worked in the Fire Room for a short while when I was asked to become a Log Room Yeoman, replacing a Yeoman for the Damage Control Assistant. I was given a typing test, filing skills test, etc. and interviewed by LCDR T.E. Craig, USN, the DCA. It turned out in my favor as I was now out of the Fire Room. I was Seaman in late 1958 and left in July 1961 as a YN2. I was reassigned to “R” Division for mustering purposes when I left the fire Room.

The events of 25 April 1961 began at 1817 hours as entered into the ship’s Deck Log as “Casualty in number two (2) fireroom”. The ship was in the Virginia Capes Operating Area conducting flight ops and recovering aircraft at the time. The incident was caused by a broken shaft from the main feed pump which caused additional damage to other components in the fire room.

A 600 psi steam line carrying 850 degree superheated steam ruptured that led to multiple steam casualties. The hatch on the 3rd deck going into No. 2 Fire Room was open at this time and this was the path for the steam to rise to the decks above the fire room. I was in the Log Room when the incident occurred, as were several other Log Room yeomen and a few others from the Engineering Department. As soon as the steam built up in our area I escorted some of the new yeoman out of the Log Room (on our hands and knees) to the hangar areas on the main deck. I went back to the Log Room and began removing five gallon foam cans from the passageway across from the Log Room for fear of them exploding. This area was near an opening about 12’ wide on the 2nd deck going to the 3rd deck where the hatch to No. 2 Fire Room was located, so we were in the path of this very hot steam.

Everyone on the 2nd deck near the Log Room were told to vacate and get to safe areas topside. On one of my trips into the passageway to retrieve the fog foam cans I heard a call for help.  I asked the shipmate in distress for his location and he responded “…in the Admin Office”.  I told the others that I was going to attempt to rescue this sailor.  I crawled on my hands and knees, past the 12’ opening and into the Admin Office and found a shipmate behind a desk. I half dragged him out and as we got in front of the 12’ opening he stood and I stood up too to pull him back down. SN Skousgard was the shipmate I saved that night and he received 2nd and 3rd degree burns. I suffered 1st degree burns, seam inhalation and heat exhaustion. There were a total of 12 crew members injured as a result of this incident – all admitted to sick bay, treated and remained overnight for observation, perhaps some transferred to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, while the rest of us were returned to duty the following day, the 26th after being released from sick bay.

YN3 Francis Krhovsky was one of the Log Room Yeomen and he took over my GQ station in Main Engine Control and he told me he remembers watching the paint peeling off the bulkhead between Main Control and No. 2 Fire Room and thinking that here were probably some shipmates who sustained injuries during this incident…We had a real hot time that night! By the time the 850 degree steam reached us on the 2nd deck it had to be at least 300-500 degrees.

I went back to the Log Room and I couldn’t believe the mess I saw inside our office space. All the deck tiles had popped off the deck (as did the surrounding area offices and passageways), water filled paint bags were hanging from the overhead and vent ducts. We cleaned up the mess and the “R” Division personnel came in and retiled our decks and repainted our Log Room. In a matter of days we looked great again.

On 20 Sept 1961, Captain J.L. Abbot, Jr., USN, our Commanding Officer, signed a Letter of Commendation addressed to me for my actions during this incident. It was presented to me on 13 Oct 1961 at my new duty station in New York City.

I remained in the Navy until 30 June 1975 when I transferred to the Fleet Reserve after completing 20 years active service.  I retired a Chief Yeoman.  Prior to my Naval career I served in the Army first with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC and then with the 7th Infantry Division in South Korea.

FCM David Benedict, YNC (Ret)

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2 Comments

  1. Mike Karakostantis

     /  July 28, 2013

    Well done Sir, nice story and that was some experience, God bless. I served on the Intrepid from 1965-69 I was also a shipfitter in the R Division. We did 3 Vietnam cruises between 1966-69. We to had real GQ and lots of other circuations, one in the Fire Room when the main steam pipe broke, another when three sailors died, two of them DC Men, from poison gas in the voids. And some plane crashes on the flight deck. Most of us in the R div. were fire fighters at sea. I got my discharge in April 1969 in Philadelphia Navy yard as a SF/3c.

    Reply
    • Mike, great hearing from you and thank you for your kind comment on my Blog post ‘Major Steam Casualty Incident’. As a fellow ‘R’ Division crewman, I can totally understand your relationship with such an incident, and especially your having to personally experience a similar experience. It was such a tragedy that two of your fellow DC men had to perish. And, of course, those fellow crewmen that were stationed on the flight deck. I believe I know a few facts about the poison gas incident since I have, for years, been corresponding by email (and have worked with him on the Board of Directors of the USS Intrepid Association, Inc.) with then Commanding Officer of the Medical Department (and good friend), during your tour, then Cmdr Laurence Blackburn. And I wouldn’t be surprised if now retired Captain Blackburn gets in touch with you regarding that incident. He, himself, was overcome by that poison gas. I will be ‘forwarding’ this email to him to view. Again, I thank you for your contribution and your support of my Blog. – John Simonetti AMS3, V6 Division, May, ’61- Sept, ’62, USS Intrepid Association, Inc. President ’03-’05.

      Reply

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