Arthur K. Lewis helped to save Arthur W. Hunter and six others from burning and an explosion, Morehead City, North Carolina, September 26, 1961. When a tank ship caught fire at a dock in the Newport River, flames spread over the forward hold and moved toward the after section, which contained tanks of aviation gasoline and other fuel. Hunter, 44, tank ship master, gave orders to abandon ship, and all but 11 of the crew left by way of the dock. One of the forward tanks then exploded. Flames 40 feet high reached the bridge of the ship. Two of the men aboard lost their lives. Hunter and eight others made their way to the stern and jumped into the water, where the tidal current was very strong. Two of the men started swimming toward the bank and later were rescued by the Coast Guard. Hunter and the other six men swam about 60 feet from the stern of the tanker and clung to a mooring post 250 feet from the bank. At a boat moorage a mile and a half away Lewis, 34, fishing boat captain, learned of the accident and decided to use his twin-engined fishing boat to pick up anybody in the danger area. Joseph F. Morris, Sr., Delmas F. Willis, and Joseph A. Huber volunteered to accompany him. With Lewis piloting the boat, they proceeded to within 250 feet of the stern of the tanker. It was dark by then. Gasoline burned on the surface of the water alongside the forward section of the tanker, from which dense smoke containing flames rose several hundred feet. Lewis and the others sighted the seven men in the water. As flames on the tank ship crackled loudly, Lewis moved his boat to the men. Heat was intense. Huber, Willis, and Morris tossed two lines to the men, who obtained holds on them. Lewis then backed the boat away, towing the men. When the boat was 150 feet from the tanker a violent explosion occurred aboard that vessel. The concussion knocked Lewis, Huber, Willis, and Morris off their feet. Large pieces of metal flew through the aid and some fragments fell onto the boat, but none struck any of the men. The tanker was enveloped in flames, and fuel on the water then burned as much as 50 feet outward from its sides. Heat became much more intense. After he and the others had regained their feet, Lewis piloted the boat farther away from the ship. Hunter lost his hold on the line and attempted with difficulty to swim against the strong current. Two hundred and fifty feet from the tanker Lewis held the boat stationary, and the six men were taken aboard. Numerous small explosions continued to occur aboard the tanker. Although one of the fishing boat’s engines became inoperative, Lewis piloted the craft back to Hunter, who had drifted toward the tanker. Hunter was helped aboard, and all seven men were taken to the moorage.
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