Jack Hinkley, Melvin McCoy and Gene Hiatt, who were working at the opposite end of the barge, were unable to say what caused the explosion that tossed them off the ill-fated “Pendleton,” a 280,000-gallon tanker owned by Tidewater-Shaver Company. Eyewitness George Sawyer, the company’s plant superintendent, reported he saw a reddish-blue flash followed by a series of four explosions. After that he was too busy dodging shrapnel hurled by the exploding craft.
A six-ton portion of the barge’s deck was thrown 500 feet upstream, and another portion, weighing only about four tons, landed about 600 feet downstream. A new 100-ton barge being built on shore about 400 feet from the blast was lifted into the air and moved about two feet. The Captain Al James, a tug that was nearby when the explosion occurred, had all its windows blown out.
|A twisted six-ton section of the deck of the "Pendleton" sits 400 feet from the smoking wreckage of the barge after an explosion March 3, 1948, near Umatilla (EO file photo).|
|Barge workers (l-r)Jack Hinkley, Melvin McCoy and Gene Hiatt survived the tanker explosion aboard the "Pendleton" that blew them off the deck into the Columbia River (EO file photo).|