Flashback in history: Union Faith-Warren J. Doucet tow collision and 25 fatalities, 6 April 1969

On 6 April 1969, the steamship Union Faith, operating with a local pilot, was upbound on the Mississippi River at New Orleans.

The towboat Warren J. Doucet was downbound with three tank barges, each holding about 9,000 barrels of crude oil.

A second towboat was made up to the port quarter of the face barge. In accordance with local custom, the tow was favoring the bends. Slightly upstream of the Greater New Orleans Bridge, in the Gouldsboro Bend, the Union Faith collided with the lead barge of the towboat. The barge broke loose and caught fire. A series of explosions followed almost immediately and the Union Faith was engulfed in flames.

Crude oil burned on the river, threatening moored vessels and harbor facilities. Union Faith drifted downriver, burning from stem to stern and then sank.

A total of 25 persons on Union Faith, including all persons on the bridge, died in the incident. Investigation revealed that the towboat was operating its radio on 2738 kHz, but was not monitoring 156.65 MHz (Channel 13). The pilot on Union Faith was using a portable transceiver operating on 156.65 MHz, but apparently not monitoring 2738 kHz. Both vessels were equipped with marine radar and the navigation lights on both vessels were apparently operating properly.

As a direct result of this casualty, and in accordance with a primary recommendation of the USCG Marine Casualty Report, Congress adopted the Vessel Bridge-to-Bridge Radio Telephone Act (Pub.L. 93-63, August 4, 1971), requiring vessels in the same waterway to monitor a common frequency.

You can read the Response Operations following the incident, by clicking here.

Union Faith on good times

Union Faith on good times.

 

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