A historic World War II Fletcher-class destroyer is sinking in Buffalo, New York, following some sort of major breach of the ship’s hull on Wednesday, and officials are still not exactly sure what happened.
The United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo first posted about the incident on Wednesday, saying that efforts were underway to “locate the source of the flooding and eventually de-water the vessel once it’s been patched.”
“Dewatering efforts continue with positive progress, large dewatering pumps capable of removing water at 13000+ gallons per minute have been placed onsite. It’s been estimated there are more than 3 million gallons of water inside the ship,” the Coast Guard said.
Paul Marzello, the President and CEO of the Buffalo Naval Park, stated on Thursday that “failure is not an option, and we will remove the water from the ship.”
The Coast Guard later gave an update on Friday, saying that “dewatering operations onboard USS The Sullivans has [sic] temporarily halted due to the introduction of fuel oil into the water.”
“The progressive flooding and positioning of the ship has caused oil from consolidated tanks onboard to leak and escape from the vessel,” the update added. “Cleanup efforts have begun and will continue until the oil has been removed from the harbor.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said that efforts were underway to “evaluate the situation and take appropriate action to preserve this critical piece of our nation’s naval heritage.”
The New York Times noted the historical significance of the ship:
Commissioned in 1943, The Sullivans is one of four remaining examples of the Fletcher-class destroyer left in the world, according to the park. The ship measures 376 feet long and was crewed by 310 sailors.
Named after five brothers who died during the battle of Guadalcanal, the destroyer left Pearl Harbor in 1944 and served in the Pacific for the remainder of World War II. According to the U.S. Navy, The Sullivans bombarded airfields on Iwo Jima, defended against Japanese air attacks, searched for submarines, rescued American sailors and Japanese merchant seaman, and supported the invasion of Okinawa.
Last year, a local NBC affiliate reported that the ship had started to take on water and that it was in danger of sustaining significantly more damage due to the climate conditions in the area.
“Routine hull maintenance is required with ships of this age,” Marzello said. “The harsh Buffalo winter weather has severely damaged the hull of USS The Sullivans below the waterline, so there is significant water coming into the ship. She is currently listing to port quite noticeably. If we cannot repair the hull and stop the water, she will sink.”