Flashback in history: Sinking of ferry George Prince, with 76 lives lost – 20 October 1976

On 20 October 1976, the ferry George Prince sank in the Mississippi River near Luling, Louisiana following a collision with the tankship Frosta. Of the 94 persons on the ferry, 76 died, including the pilot. The USCG investigation states that the ferry departed its moorings at Luling for a routine nighttime crossing to Destrehan on the west bank. Unusually, it sounded no sign al of its departure and did not proceed upstream prior to crossing, but headed straight across the navigable channel. Frosta was upbound with a pilot on board.


The George Prince ferry in better days.

Frosta’s pilot observed the ferry and called several times on the radiotelephone with no response. As the vessels closed, Frosta’s pilot sounded signals, but received no response. Shortly before collision, Frosta’s pilot ordered back full, but collision could not be avoided by that time. George Prince was hit amidships on its port side and capsized. Analysis later determined that the George Prince pilot had a blood-alcohol level of 0.9. Subsequently, the maximum blood-alcohol
level for mariners in safety positions has been lowered to 0.4 and the rules of the road have been changed to make it clear that vessels crossing a river must give way to vessels transiting upstream or downstream.
The investigation report is available for download:

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