No known deaths in freighter accident
New Orleans mayor calls it 'Christmas miracle'
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Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST
NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Reporting what he called "a Christmas miracle," New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial said Monday there have been no known deaths from Saturday's freighter accident at the city's riverfront.
"We are at this point pleased that no... deaths have been part of this. I think it is nothing short of a Christmas miracle," Morial said during a news conference on the progress of search and rescue efforts.
Ron Brinson, president of the Port of New Orleans, said authorities did receive two missing persons reports but that those individuals were later located.
An estimated 1,000 people were in the three-story Riverwalk mall when the grain freighter hit, taking out a 200-foot section of the mall. Most of the approximately 140 people who were injured have since been released from hospitals.
New Orleans Fire Department Chief Warren McDaniels said that search and rescue efforts would continue until workers had "examined every portion of that rubble."
Earlier Monday, officials said they would attempt to reach unexamined riverfront areas damaged when the freighter slammed into the popular tourist area.
New Orleans Fire Department officials said they had still not been able to reach a collapsed parking garage because the wreckage was too unstable. McDaniels said it could take a few days to secure the wreckage.
Morial and other city officials stressed during the news conference that the area of damage was limited and would not affect the Super Bowl or Sugar Bowl, both of which New Orleans is scheduled to host next month.
Pilot called a hero
The pilot of the ship, Ted Davisson, is being credited with saving lives, but he told reporters "I just did my job... that's all I did."
Authorities said by dropping the anchor, Davisson was able to bring the freighter into the shore between two cruise ships and a gambling casino with 800 people on board.
Capt. Joe Clayton of the New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilot Association, said if it had not been for Davisson's quick response, the damage would have been much worse.
Had Davisson not maneuvered the freighter to reduce its momentum, sounded the warning horn and contacted officials on shore, Clayton said, "he could have possibly killed people on the dock and further down the dock, we feel certain it would have rolled the gambling vessel."
Clayton said the freighter was traveling too fast for tugboats to have steered it away from the riverfront.
Investigation to focus on cause of power failure
John Hammerschmidt of the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators had interviewed the crew and made an initial inspection of the ship and its engines. Davisson and the crew passed an alcohol and drug test, which is required after accidents.
Speculation has centered on a lube oil pump which crew members indicated caused the freighter's engine to lose power, in turn causing the vessel to lose the ability to steer.
Although the freighter was not using sophisticated recording devices at the time of the accident, Hammerschmidt said investigators would be able to determine how fast the ship was moving and how the engines were being controlled.
Hammerschmidt said the NTSB investigation might take as long as a year, but added that the board would issue "urgent safety recommendations" if major safety concerns emerge before the board has concluded its inquiry.
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