Iwo Jima Steam Explosion
I remember the incident, just like it was yesterday; at 0758, 30 Oct 1990, the word was passed "UNDERWAY"; at 0802...the ships power was secured...no lights.....the ship was in pandamonium....when I was on the Iwo, during FEP, we were taught, that if the power goes out...treat it as a "actual casuality" and go to your General Quarters station.....I advised my workcenter chief, SKC(SW) Danilo Q. Gloria, USN(Retired), that he and I should run down to Repair 3...we went to the Hanger Bay and there was alot of steam....the word for General Quareters had never been passed over the 1MC....so SKC and myself got to Repair 3; I was the phone talker and plotter for Repair 3, and I began my normal routine to hook up everything, and establish comms on the 2JZ...when I established comms, all I could hear over the line was alot of confusion...by this time it was 0814, and the Emergency Diesel came online, then the General Quarters alarm sounded. Halon was dumped into the Fireroom, because no one actually knew what had happened.At around 0900, Repair 5 made an attempt to enter the space, but could not, due to the steam (super heated steam presents high pressure at 690 degrees F). At around 0910, Repair 5 made another attempt; entered the space and found 6 of our shipmates, dead in the space...one of them was BT1 Robert Volden (the person who secured the boilers, to eleviate an actual boiler explosion); 4 people were pilled from the space, one of them was the MPA (who reported to the ship just two weeks prior)....the survivors were immediate transferred to the on station medical ship for treatment. The remaining repair lockers, in succession, assisted with the removal of the deceased and the survivors. The ship was at General Quarters until 1300 that afternoon.
When we pulled the MPA out, he was screaming "I Can't See, I Can't Breathe" (Note: When a person inhales or is subject to that much high pressure steam or the intense temperatures...your skin will melt or cease together and your skin will fall off...the MPA's eyes were melted shut !!). All of the survivors looked like parbroiled chicken...it was sad !!! This all could have been avoided.
Ensign Rich Miehle, Supply Corp, who was the Sales Officer was on the Mess Decks; one of the survivors came out of the escape scuttle; Mr Miehle took the individual to Medical for treatment....this individual received severe burns to his body, that he was bleeding...even on Mr Miehle....
Throughout that dreadful evening, not only did we lose 10 shipmates (known as the Iwo Ten), but the crew was subjected to intolerable heat conditions (the Bahrain temp in October is usually in the low 100's) and the ship had no AC on, since number Two switchboard had been destroyed. During that evening, the crew learned forehand how to install Casuality Power Control Cables, to which we had to re-route the power around Number Two switch board, to recover from the casuality.
Before the A/C was returned to the ship, the temperature was in running near 175 degrees....
The following morning, most of the guys from B Division knew what caused the incident. It took the Navy three years to release the info.
This was one of the most horrible event I was ever apart of...The IWO Ten should never be forgotten.....
Posted by Alan Bickert
Jun 28 2005 06:24:19:000PM