Manual Override / Over ride of Shutoff systemMANUAL OVERRIDE OF AUTOMATIC SHUTDOWN SYSTEM
NEW ORLEANS - The Associated Press : An automated safety system made a freighter hard to steer at a critical turn in the Mississippi River and may have contributed to a crash at a crowded riverside shopping mall that injured 116 people.
- ``Any time you have automation that is supposed to contribute to safety and it has a reverse consequence, we are interested in that,'' National Transportation Safety Board member John Hammerschmidt said Monday at a news conference.
- Preliminary findings show that a lube pump on the 763-foot Bright Field failed and a backup pump switched on just minutes before the crash Saturday. An automated safety system also came on, which reduced engine rpms and the vessel's speed, eroding the freighter's steering control, Hammerschmidt said.
- The ship's pilot and crew apparently didn't use the system's manual override controls, he said. The automated safety systems worked as they were designed.
- Loaded with 56,380 long tons of corn, the ship lost engine power and crashed into the Riverwalk shopping mall and the Riverside Hilton. No deaths have been reported, but searchers brought in sensitive listening devices to determine whether anyone was buried under the rubble from the heavily damaged buildings.
- Only three of the 116 people injured remained hospitalized today, two with pelvic fractures and one with abdominal injuries.
- ``It is nothing short of a Christmas miracle,'' Mayor Marc Morial said.
- A Coast Guard hearing was set for today. Investigators are focusing on whether the crew understood how to use the equipment in an emergency and whether communication problems between the English-speaking pilot and the freighter's 12-member Chinese crew were factors.
- The ship's global positioning system, which recorded its drift into the mall, is also being investigated. A ``course recorder,'' similar to an airplane's ``black box,'' was on board but not operating.
- Maritime officials have praised pilot Ted Davisson, who came on board three hours before the crash to guide the ship through the port, with averting a more serious accident. With its emergency horn wailing and its anchor dropped in a desperate attempt to stop, the freighter narrowly missed hitting two cruise ships holding some 1,700 people.
- ``He had the utmost concern that there had been loss of life,'' Robert Barnett, a spokesman for the New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilot Commission, said Monday. ``His demeanor today is guardedly optimistic because there has been no loss of life.''
- The pilot and crew have passed alcohol tests. Drug test results were not yet available.
- The bend in the Mississippi River gives New Orleans its Crescent City nickname. The port is one of the world's busiest, used annually by 6,000 large ocean-bound vessels and 120,000 tugboats that tow or push huge strings of barges as long as 100 feet.
- The accident has rekindled public debate over development along the riverbank.
- ``We realize what the risks are, but we also realize the public has an interest in being at the river's edge,'' said Ron Brinson, executive director of the Port of New Orleans.
[12-17-96 at 15:40 EST, Copyright 1996, The Associated Press]