The nighttime blast on the oil tanker Sansinena in Los Angeles Harbor in 1976 split the 810-foot vessel in two and rocked the coastline, shattering windows as far away as Costa Mesa, 21 miles down the coast. Six crewmen died and more than 50 people were injured. Two crewmen and a dock security guard were never found and presumed dead.
The next morning's Los Angeles Times article by staff writer Richard West reported:
The explosion was so tremendous that it broke the 70,000 ton Sansinena in half, shoving the fore and aft sections 150 feet apart, and heaved the entire superstructure of the vessel up on the dock in San Pedro.
The blast at 7:40 p.m. was felt as far away as Dana Point, 45 miles to the south. It broke windows in Costa Mesa, 21 miles away and rattled dwellings in Glendale and the Hollywood Hills.
Days later, Coast Guard divers reported an 18-inch-deep layer of heavy oil on the harbor bottom.
Los Angeles Times staff photographer Jack Gaunt's smoking-ruins image of the Sansinena was Page 1 lead art the next morning.
Staff photographer Robert Lachman remembers feeling the blast while eating dinner in The Times' 10th-floor cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. After rushing to the scene, he took the photo below using a slow exposure with a tripod-mounted Nikon F.
This article was originally published on Dec. 17, 2010.