New York (Mar. 9)
– The Coast Guard said this morning that four crewmen are dead and 21 missing from the Israeli bulk carrier Mezada which sank yesterday in heavy seas about 95 miles east of Bermuda. The rescue of nine others has been confirmed and two are reported rescued but this was unconfirmed, the Coast Guard said. The Navy and Coast Guard are conducting a massive sea-air search for the missing men.
Capt. Johnny Singer, operations manager of the Zim Lines in New York, owners of the vessel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that there were 35 men and one woman aboard the Mezada when she foundered. He said the woman was the wife of an officer but he would not identify her or anyone else by name pending further information on the rescue operation. He said, however, that the Mezada was commanded by Capt. Gera Levin and that the crew were mixed Israeli and foreign.
According to Singer, the Coast Guard’s information is “still preliminary. They are still getting people out of the water. There are still people in the water” as of this morning, he told the JTA.
Transport Minister Chaim Landau sent Capt. Haim Harari, a senior official of the Ministry’s shipping division, to Bermuda today to assist in the investigation of the Mezada’s sinking, it was reported from Tel Aviv. Landau also sent thanks to the American and other vessels engaged in the rescue operations. Family and friends of crew members milled outside the Zim Lines offices in Haifa for information but the company management advised them to go home and promised that they would be informed of any new development. Petty Officer Greg Creedon of the U.S. Coast Guard Eastern Sea Frontier in New York told the JTA this morning that the Navy has four ships engaged in the search and rescue operation, including the giant aircraft carrier Forrestal, two frigates and one destroyer. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft and five helicopters from the Forrestal are conducting the search from the air, he said.
According to Creedon, the rescued seamen and the remains of three of the deceased are presently aboard four merchant ships. He said the Damodar Tasaka, bound for Italy, reported eight survivors and one deceased aboard but provided the names of only six survivors. The Pollycrest, enroute to Rotterdam, reported one survivor; the motorship High Seas Promise, enroute to Bermuda, said it had one survivor and one deceased aboard; and the motorship Erlangen Express, also bound for Bermuda, reported one deceased. A Navy helicopter based in Bermuda rescued one crew member yesterday.
The Mezada, a 19,000-ton bulk carrier built for the Zim Lines in the 1960s, sailed from Ashdod three weeks ago with a cargo of potash and was due in Baltimore today, according to Singer.
Benny Ze’evi, the Ashdod port pilot who took the ship out of the harbor, said today that everything had been in good order aboard when he left her, it was reported from Tel Aviv.