15 Dead, Three Missing in Ship Sinkings Off Iceland

Associated Press

A British tanker ran onto a rock off the east coast of Iceland early today and sank, killing all 12 crewmen, Iceland's National Rescue Organization said.

It was the second fatal sinking of a ship in the North Atlantic in as many days.

An Icelandic freighter, the Sudurland, sank midway between Iceland and Norway on Thursday. Five crewmen were rescued by a Danish helicopter, three died and three more were missing and presumed dead.

In the disaster today, the 1,260-ton British-owned Syneta sent a distress call saying it had run aground and could not launch any of its life rafts because the tanker was too close to a steep, rocky outcrop.

The crew of 12--six Britons and six Cape Verde Islanders--apparently jumped into the sea when the ship began to sink, said Rescue Organization spokesman Johannes Briem.

Rescuers later found a life raft torn to shreds. They recovered six bodies, all in life jackets. Two other bodies slipped out of their life jackets and sank as the searchers tried to pull them aboard trawlers.

One Dies After Rescue

One crewman was found alive but he died shortly afterward, Briem said.

The three other crewmen were missing and presumed dead, although the search continued. Hundreds of volunteers combed the beaches.

The Syneta was smashed to pieces.

The 284-foot ship was purchased by Syndicate Tankships Ltd. of Gibraltar in October, 1985, and was managed by Haggerstone Marine Ltd. of Hornchurch outside London.

The Syneta was empty when it left Liverpool on Dec. 20 for Eskifjordur on the east coast of Iceland to pick up 1,100 tons of fish liver oil.

Rescuers found a letter in a British sailor's pocket, which was dated Christmas Eve and addressed to a woman in England. In it, the crewman complained that the ship could sail at only 5 knots (5.7 m.p.h.) and that its automatic pilot was inoperable, a spokesman said.

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