Bright Field missing engine log recordsMISSING ENGINE LOG RECORDS
12/20/96 - 12:08 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version
NEW ORLEANS - Someone cut a page from the engine log book on the huge freighter that plowed into a crowded riverside mall and injured 116 people, the Coast Guard said Thursday.
The missing page from the handwritten log covered the two days before the accident and might have recorded problems with an engine pump that failed Saturday, leaving the ship almost powerless to avoid the riverbank.
None of the other engine records from Friday, when the Bright Field was moored upriver from New Orleans, indicate anything was going on that day, Coast Guard Cmdr. Ken Parris said.
Word that the page had been cut out came Thursday during a joint Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board inquiry into the cause of Saturday's accident.
Lost business and property damage from the crash could total well over $500 million, said attorney Daniel Becnel, who has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the mall business owners.
James Roussel, an attorney for the ship's owners, filed suit Thursday to have all claims consolidated according to maritime law, which would limit liability to the value of the ship and its cargo - about $16 million - if the ship is found to be seaworthy and the crew is absolved of negligence.
The 763-foot Bright Field, loaded with 56,000 tons of corn, lost power and crashed into the Riverwalk mall, injuring 116 people and destroying more than a dozen shops and a small part of the Hilton Hotel.
Officials at the hearing had been using photocopies of the log provided by the company until Bob Barnett, an attorney for the state's river pilot agency, insisted on seeing the original and discovered the missing page Wednesday.
Parris said the missing page was for last Thursday and Friday in the "engine movement book," where the ship's engineer on duty customarily records any notable ship activity.
It was not known when the page was removed. Parris said he personally looked at the log aboard ship after the crash and did not notice it missing.
After the accident, the attorneys for the ship owners took the log and kept it until Tuesday. When the hearings began it was turned over to the Coast Guard, which didn't notice the missing page.
"If Bob Barnett hadn't demanded the original, we would never have known," Becnel said.
In another development that stemmed from an apparent misunderstanding, lawyers for the Riverwalk said they "caught" a marine repair firm removing the damaged lubrication pump which is believed to have caused the accident.
They immediately went to federal court, accused the workers of destroying evidence, and got an order from a federal judge barring the vessel's owner, COSCO Shipping Co., from disassembling equipment on the crippled vessel.
Livaudais' order, signed Wednesday, gave that authority exclusively to the Coast Guard and NTSB.
However, Parris said it was all "a miscommunication." He said the work was being done for the Coast Guard, but the workers, employed by a New Orleans machine repair firm, were supposed to call the Coast Guard before they started.
By The Associated Press