Anniversary of Worst Ferry Disaster in History, 77 Killed - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Anniversary of Worst Ferry Disaster in History, 77 Killed

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Thirty years ago Friday, the ferryboat George Prince, packed with construction and chemical plant workers, pushed off from a Destrehan dock into the Mississippi River and blundered into the path of the Norwegian tanker ship Frosta.

Just after 6:00 a.m. on October 20th, 1976 ferry pilot Egidio "Gene" Auletta, whose half-empty bottle of whiskey was later found in the pilot house, gunned the ferry's engines into the current.

As the 120-foot ferry turned toward the Luling dock, Auletta seemed oblivious to frantic horn blasts and radio calls from the 665-foot-long tanker that towered over the ferry's port side.

A few minutes later, when the ferry was only 800 feet from its destination, the Frosta ran over the George Prince, flipping it and spilling cars and people into the water.

Of the 95 people who boarded the ferry, 77 died, including Auletta and the four members of his crew.

The accident did lead to regulatory reforms. Pilots are now subject to random drug and alcohol testing. And navigation rules, which in 1976 gave the right of way to ships crossing the river, now give it to vessels traveling upstream or downstream.

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