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Tanker explodes off Virginia coast

Physicians treat a victim from the explosion outside Sentara Hospital.
Physicians treat a victim from the explosion outside Sentara Hospital.

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(CNN) -- Three crew members have died when a tanker carrying industrial ethanol exploded and sank with 27 people on board about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Chincoteague, Virginia.

Seven crew members were hospitalized, the Coast Guard said, while using night vision equipment, the Coast Guard searched the ocean for more survivors, a Coast Guard spokesman said in Portsmouth.

"We're doing our best," said Sr. Chief Petty Officer John Moss, adding that the ocean was littered with debris.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, he said.

The 570-foot Bow Mariner tanker called in a mayday to the Coast Guard after 6:00 p.m. Saturday to report the explosion.

The Singapore-flagged vessel was in transit from New York to Houston with 24 Filipino and three Greek crew members, when it sank in international waters.

The Coast Guard in Washington will have to contact Singapore to determine who will do the investigation, Moss said.

One of the injured was in critical condition, an official at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said. Vicky Gray said two crew members were in serious condition, and three were in good condition. The seventh man was being airlifted to a hospital in Salisbury, Md.

Most of those hospitalized were suffering from exposure to the water and injuries caused by spilled crude oil, Gray said.

She said a Coast Guard swimmer also was being treated.

The Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 plane, and three helicopters to help in the search and rescue.

Chincoteague is on the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) peninsula, separating the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.


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