Collision at Sea - USS Kinkaid (DD-965)
We were on our way to Hong Kong when we had our collision with a Panamanian registered freighter, the M/V Kota Petani. Once again, my ship was in the news. The collision happened in the Straits of Malacca which can look like a Los Angeles freeway during rush hour.
The collision at sea ripped a huge gaping hole in the starboard side. Just for some scale, the photo shows damage to three decks (floors or stories to landlubbers) above the water line. The hole extended two more decks below the water line. There was much concern about whether the keel had been damaged (fortunately it wasn't).
Several spaces were flooded, including berthing spaces. In my berthing space, where 90 sailors were sleeping, the water was coming in slow enough that we were all able to escape. We had to don our Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBD) so we could breath through all the thick smoke.
As seen from above the flight deck, the hole extendeded almost all the way to the center line of the ship.
There was one death, Lt. Sean McPhee, our Navigation Officer (NAVO). While I didn't know him well, he was very well liked and respected by many on board. I remember him talking about joining the Merchant Marines soon and I was impressed with his enthusiasm and quick wit. Several Chief Petty Officers were washed out to sea from their Aft Overflow Berthing space and suffered minor injuries. They were rescued by our motor whale boat. Two or more of them contracted pneumonia due to the fuel (JP5) in the water.
Several people earned – EARNED – awards and medals for their heroic actions in damage control. Especially those who entered the torpedo room to put out the fires – even after an explosion part way into the task.
We managed to make it to Singapore under our own power. We spent a month in Singapore as they put a large cofferdam (patch) on the hull of the ship. Then several months in the yards in Subic Bay, Phillipines while they repaired the hull and replaced missing decks & bulkheads. A six month deployment ran into 10 months.
When we finally got back to San Diego, we spent more months in the yards as they repaired cabling, weapons systems, etc. “Desert Storm” came & went before the Kinkaid was ready for action again.
This collision made the cover illustration and was the feature article in the Navy Safety Center's journal, Fathom, "Metal to Metal in the Straits". (Fathom, Volume 22, Number 3 (June/July 1990) ISSN 0014-8822). I haven't found an online copy of the journal, but kept a hard-copy of it all these years in my USS Kinkaid DD-965 Westpac (AKA Crashpac) 89-90 cruise book. Perhaps some day I'll scan the article. And look for some more pictures to scan. I may even see if I can recover the video tapes (the first investigation team used my consumer grade VHS-C camcorder to document some of the damage).
The Judge Advocate General (JAG) investigation of the collision has been released to the public and is available as six PDF files from their Website. Scroll down to:
1989 12 NOV USS KINCAID [sic] COLLISION.