//
you're reading...
Australian History

January 5, 1975 – The Tasman Bridge in Tasmania, Australia, is struck by the bulk ore carrier Lake Illawarra, killing twelve people


Tasman Bridge Disaster

Tasman Bridge Disaster

The Tasman Bridge disaster occurred on the evening of 5 January 1975, in Hobart, the capital city of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, when a bulk ore carrier travelling up the Derwent River collided with several pylons of the Tasman Bridge, causing a large section of the bridge deck to collapse onto the ship and into the river below.

Twelve people were killed, including seven crew on board the ship, and the five occupants of four cars which fell 45 m (150 feet) after driving off the bridge.

Hobart was cut-off from its eastern suburbs, and the loss of the road connection had a major social impact. The ship’s master was officially penalised for inattention and failure to handle his vessel in a seamanlike manner.

The collision occurred at 9:27 p.m. (Australian Eastern Summer Time UTC+11) on Sunday 5 January 1975. The bulk carrier Lake Illawarra, carrying 10,000 tonnes of zinc ore concentrate, was heading up the Derwent River to offload its cargo to the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, upstream from Hobart and about 3 km from the bridge. The 1,025 m long main viaduct of the bridge was composed of a central main navigation span, two flanking secondary navigation spans, and 19 approach spans.

The ship was off course as it neared the bridge, partly due to the strong tidal current but also because of inattention by the ship’s master, Captain Boleslaw Pelc. Initially approaching the bridge at eight knots, Pelc slowed the ship to a ‘safe’ speed. Although the Lake Illawarra was capable of passing through the bridge’s central navigation span, the captain attempted to pass through one of the eastern spans.

Despite several changes of course, the ship proved unmanageable due to its insufficient speed relative to the current. In desperation the captain ordered ‘full speed astern’, at which point all control was lost. The vessel drifted towards the bridge midway between the central navigation span and the eastern shore, crashing into the pile capping of piers 18 and 19, bringing three unsupported spans and a 127 m section of roadway crashing into the river and onto the vessel’s deck.

The ship listed to starboard and sank within minutes in 35 m of water a short distance to the south. Seven crew members on the Lake Illawarra were trapped and drowned. The subsequent marine court of inquiry found that the captain had not handled the ship in a proper and seamanlike manner, and his certificate was suspended for six months.

As the collision occurred on a Sunday evening, there was relatively little traffic on the bridge. While no cars were travelling between the 18th and 19th pylons when that section collapsed, four cars drove over the gap, killing five occupants. Two drivers managed to stop their vehicles at the edge, but not before their front wheels had dropped over the lip of the bridge deck.

Private citizens living nearby were on the scene early, even before the ship had sunk. Three of these were Jack Read in his H28 yacht Mermerus, David Read in a small launch, and Jerry Chamberlain, who had their boats moored in Montagu Bay close by. These and others, and many shore-based residents, were responsible for saving many of the crewmen from the Lake Illawarra. Those in small craft acted alone in very difficult circumstances with falling cement, live wires, and water from a broken pipe above, until the water police arrived on the scene.

A large number of other organisations were involved in the emergency response, including police, ambulance service, fire brigade, Royal Hobart Hospital, Civil Defence, the Hobart Tug Company, Marine Board of Hobart, Public Works Department, Transport Commission, HydroElectric Commission, Hobart Regional Water Board, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy. At 2:30 am, a 14-man Navy Clearance Diving Team flew to Hobart to assist Water Police in the recovery of the vehicles which had driven off the bridge. Two vehicles were identified on 7 January; one was salvaged that day and the second three days later. Another vehicle was found buried under rubble on 8 January.

A comprehensive survey of the wreck of the Lake Illawarra was completed by 13 January. The divers operated in hazardous conditions, with little visibility and strong river currents, contending with bridge debris such as shattered concrete, reinforced steel rods, railings, pipes, lights, wire and power cables. Strong winds on the third day brought down debris from the bridge above, including power cables, endangering the divers working below.

A total of 12 people died in the disaster: seven crew of the MV Lake Illawarra and five motorists.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 14,844 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

2021 Olympic viewership: China vs USA

2021 Olympic viewership: China vs USA

At least 4 reasons explain the differences between China and the USA on viewership of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. While the viewing of the Games both live and via media reporting in Greater China — mainland, Taiwan Island, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR — surpassed old records, the attention of the US public […]

‘Made in China’ products are running into new international shipping problems

‘Made in China’ products are running into new international shipping problems

Chinese companies wanting to go global are running into shipping problems. Access to cheap manufacturing at home gave Chinese businesses an advantage overseas. But it’s turning into a disadvantage now, as the pandemic and trade tensions disrupt international supply channels. Many goods can’t be shipped out, said Fang Xueyu, vice president of international marketing and […]

The dubious terms of China’s massive international loan spree

The dubious terms of China’s massive international loan spree

China is the world’s biggest lender to governments. And that’s not just because of its gigantic stockpile of US Treasuries. For much of the past decade Beijing has sought to plug massive infrastructure funding gaps across multiple continents through its Belt and Road Initiative. The overarching aim, other than to bolster global influence, is to […]

Analysis of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative: Genesis and Development

Analysis of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative: Genesis and Development

Understanding the foreign policy and geo-economic strategies of countries, especially in such a difficult time when national borders are closed and the “militarization” of cybersecurity (Hopkins, 2012), becomes an important, if not vital, task for each individual country in its attempts to take its rightful place in building a new world order and development economy. In the […]

China decides to engage with Afghanistan’s Taliban to further persecute Uyghurs

China decides to engage with Afghanistan’s Taliban to further persecute Uyghurs

With the United States withdrawing and the Taliban having swept to control of about half of Afghanistan, few observers give the Afghan government much chance of survival. September may be a decisive month, when the withdrawal is complete and American air operations against Taliban positions end. That is the background to Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s […]

Cadence Column: Asia, August 2, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, August 2, 2021

British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is trudging through China’s backyard. Chinese government news “Global Times” describes Britain as trying to relive its old days. China was never happy about getting its ass whipped twice in the Opium Wars, which China provoked with its economic philosophy that “sliver-in, tealeaves-out” was sustainable trade. China, now with […]

Attacks on foreign journalists in China cast shadow over Beijing’s upcoming Olympics

Attacks on foreign journalists in China cast shadow over Beijing’s upcoming Olympics

After promises during the 2008 Olympics, “[f]ew could have imagined the CCP stooping to the level of running campaigns against individual news reporters and outlets, resulting in harassment and death threats against foreign reporters,” writes William Nee. On July 20, in the central plains of Henan province, one of China’s most important regional cities, Zhengzhou, […]

Tibet and China clash over next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama

Tibet and China clash over next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama

A couple of years ago, during a meeting of Tibetan leaders in Dharamshala in India, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was asked about his reincarnation. Addressing the room of monks, religious teachers and Tibetan politicians, the Dalai Lama asked them to look into his eyes. “Do you think it’s time now?” he asked. It […]

China orders one member of each Tibetan family to enlist in the military to fight against India

China orders one member of each Tibetan family to enlist in the military to fight against India

China has been hatching several conspiracies since its defeat on the eastern Ladakh border against India last year. Considering the fact that Tibetan youth can play a vital role in fighting India in the Himalayan mountains on the borders of eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, China has made it mandatory for one member of every […]

China warns UK as carrier strike group approaches South China Sea

China warns UK as carrier strike group approaches South China Sea

China has warned the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth not to carry out any “improper acts” as it enters the contested South China Sea. ‘The People’s Liberation Army Navy is at a high state of combat readiness’ says the pro-government Global Times, seen as a mouthpiece for the […]

%d bloggers like this: