Advertisement
California

From the Archives: 1947 explosions destroy tanker Markay in Los Angeles Harbor, kill 12

June 22, 1947: Firefighters work to control flames from the wreckage of the tanker S. S. Markay afte
June 22, 1947: Firefighters work to control burning wreckage of the tanker Markay after the ship exploded in Los Angeles Harbor.
(Bob Jakobsen / Los Angeles Times)

Just after 2 a.m., June 22, 1947, a series of explosions sank the tanker Markay. A dozen workers were killed and 22 injured. A story in the next morning’s Los Angeles Times reported:

Los Angeles Harbor was rocked by a series of tremendous blasts yesterday when an oil tanker blew up, killing at least two persons and causing fires, that, fed by spreading gasoline, consumed five shipping berths and parts of two others, besides oil-loading equipment and sheds.

Twenty-two persons were injured and 12 are missing.

The ill-fated vessel was the Markay, owned by Keystone Tankship Corp., which exploded at 2:05 a.m. at the Shell Oil Co. docks on Morman Island, Wilmington, while it was loading gasoline for shipment to Northern California. Burning gasoline from the shattered ship bolted across the channel, igniting the terminals of the American President Lines. ….

A followup article in the July 3, 1947, Los Angeles Times reported a coroner’s jury decided there was “no evidence of negligence” and the Markay sinking, “accidental.” The same article reported 10 deaths and two people still missing.

A Sept. 12, 1947, Los Angeles Times article reported 12 deaths in the Markay sinking.

June 22, 1947: The remains of the tanker Markay burn at Los Angeles Harbor following explosion.
June 22, 1947: The remains of the tanker Markay burn at Los Angeles Harbor following explosions. Los Angeles Times
June 22, 1947: The Markay, along dock in channel, burns close to Texas Co. oil storage taks in foreg
June 22, 1947: The Markay, along dock in channel, burns close to Texas Co. oil storage tanks in foreground. Across channel, docks afire after burning gasoline spread. This photo appeared in the June 23, 1947, Los Angeles Times. Associated Press
June 22, 1947: Fireboats play streams of water on the burning tanker S.S. Markay, background, after
June 22, 1947: Fireboats aim streams of water on the burning tanker Markay, background, after explosion rocked harbor. Fireboat in foreground battles blaze started by burning gasoline on another dock. Los Angeles Times
June 22, 1947: Following the explosion of the tanker Markay in Los Angeles Harbor, firese spread 200
June 22, 1947: Following the explosion of the Markay, fires spread by gasoline damaged berths 152, 153 and 154. Los Angeles Times
June 23, 1947: The remains of the tanker Markay rests in Los Angeles Harbor the day after explosion
June 23, 1947: The remains of the tanker Markay rest in Los Angeles Harbor the day after explosion rocked the vessel. Los Angeles Times
June 23, 1947: The day after an explosion destroyed the tanker S.S. Markay, background, workers tear
June 23, 1947: The day after an explosion destroyed the tanker Markay, background, workers tear up asphalt to get at flames underneath pier. Los Angeles Times
June 23, 1947: View from stern showing what’s left of the tanker S.S. Markay in Los Angeles Harbor
June 23, 1947: View from stern showing what's left of the tanker Markay in Los Angeles Harbor following a series of explosions on the day before. In foreground is coroner Ben Btown, left, and Det. Sgt. Ralph Weyant. Los Angeles Times

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


Newsletter
Get our Essential California newsletter
Advertisement