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Sinking of the Ferry Heraklion, December 7, 1966.



The 498-foot Greek steamship SS Heraklion, with Captain Vernikos at the helm, regularly worked a ferry route on the Aegean Sea from Crete to the Greek mainland until a night in December, when the weather, inexperienced officers and crew, and a rogue refrigerator truck combined to capsize the ship, killing many of the passengers and crew.

At the dock in Chania, Crete, the captain of the Heraklion waited for the arrival of a refrigerated trailer truck carrying oranges, which came late and threw the ship off schedule by two hours. It’s been speculated that the crew, flustered and rushed by the delay, improperly secured the truck in its position in front of the ferry’s loading doors. By that point, the crowded ship was heavily laden with cargo and passengers.

During the trip to Piraeus, Port of Athens, a severe gale began to blow with wind gusts up to 63 mph. After midnight, the storm reached a critical point. Deadly waves continued battering the ferry’s hull, causing it to pitch back and forth. In the hold, vehicles including the trailer truck, tore loose from their ties. Each roll the ship made sent the truck crashing over and over into the loading doors. At last, the doors gave way, allowing the sea to pour in.

The ship took a mere 20 minutes to sink. Untrained officers and crew who had no idea how to conduct an emergency evacuation panicked, as did the passengers struggling to find an exit from their cabins to the decks.

The exact number of victims is unknown since accurate records weren’t kept, but it’s estimated 268 passengers and crew perished, including the captain, who went down with the ship. The 46 survivors clung to life jackets and debris, trying to stay afloat in the dark, oily water while bizarrely, oranges bobbed in the waves around them.

The Heraklion’s owners, Typaldos Line, were charged with negligence.
KittyReika KittyReika 18-21, F Feb 2

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