USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

In Dense  B.C. Fog:

Seattle-Based Warship and Freighter Collide


Contributed by Rodger Clement QM3


Rodger Clement QM3

The Seattle-based Destroyer Escort Whitehurst and the Norwegian freighter Hoyanjer collided in dense fog last night about 7 'o'clock at the entrance to Vancouver Harbor in British Columbia.

There were no reports of casualties but Whitehurst reportedly suffered extensive damage to her stern. the United Press International said.
(Damage was to starboard quarter. mc)

The Whitehurst was aground about 40 feet from shore, a spokesman for the Air-Sea Rescue Center at Vancouver said, and there was fear she might heel over as the tide ebbed.

The Hoyanjer, with a crew of 38 and a general cargo, was towed into English Bay.

A spokesman for 13th Naval District Headquarters in Seattle said the Whitehurst was presumed inbound and the freighter outbound when they collided just outside the Lion's Gate Bridge.

The spokesman said the Whitehurst, based at pier 91, left Seattle about 8 o'clock yesterday morning on a weekend training cruise with the Brannon, another Seattle-based destroyer escort.

Of the 200 men aboard the Whitehurst, all except about 40 are reservists, mostly from the Seattle area, the spokesman said.  The Whitehurst is commanded by Lieut. Comdr. Richard Rising, 34 of Bellevue.  He assumed command of the vessel in October.  The Whitehurst had been scheduled to remain in Vancouver last night, undergo more training today and return to Seattle late in the day.

The Air-Sea Rescue Center said the Whitehurst may be refloated this morning if she did not heel over.

Witnesses described the damage to Whitehurst as "a long gash on its right side near the stern," the Associated Press said.  The Ship's steel plates reportedly buckled and "stuck out five feet."

Wayne McRory, 23, a university student, was standing on the back porch of a waterfront house when the collision occurred.

"I saw the ship lights coming through the fog and not too far from shore," he said.  "I heard someone shouting, apparently trying to sound a warning. he two ships were side by side and heading straight for the beach," McRory added.

The Seattle spokesman said the reservists aboard the Whitehurst would return here as scheduled, either aboard other ships or by land.

It was not known which vessel hit the other.

The Hoyanjer had just passed through the narrow entrance beneath the bridge, an area controlled by radar, and was moving into the wider area beyond.

Fog horns at Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre playground on the opposite shore , were sounding.


Photo from Seattle Times showing USS Whitehurst DE-634 Starboard
side aft after collision with Norwegian freighter, Hoyanjer.


 Richard Rising Capt USN. Ret. Relates His Memories of the Collision. July, 2003                            


Richard Rising Capt USNR Ret.


DEs Whitehurst and Brannon  were cautiously holding back before entering the harbor.  DD Brinkley Bass had already passed under the bridge when Hoyanjer came out on the wrong side of the channel.  The Norwegian ship was being propelled along with the outgoing current and was probably doing about 15 knots.  She collided with Whitehurst driving her almost onto the beach, damaging the starboard side aft and the propellers.  Fortunately, there were no injuries.  Whitehurst heeled approximately 30 degrees but not over on to her side, as some had feared might happen.  The reservists were taken off and returned to Seattle aboard the Brannon and the Brinkley Bass.

A Naval inquiry completely vindicated the Commanding Officer of Whitehurst.  The Norwegian ship was using no lookout and had almost collided with a ferry before hitting Whitehurst.  Several months after the collision the US Government sued the Norwegian Government for repair cost and won the case. 

 During this trial ( I was one of the chief witnesses)  it came out that the Hoyanger had no lookouts stationed or anyone tracking traffic on radar.  They were under control of a Pilot that assumed there would be no shipping in the area.  We , and the other two ships of our program (Brinkley Bass, in port, and the Brannon which was  with us), tracked the Hoyanger , sounded the required signals and maneuvered in accordance to the rules of the road.  

A few quotes from the court findings are: " ...the other alternative, and the one followed by the pilot of the Hoyanjer, was to ignore good navigational practices and proceed to " shoot the gap" without stopping even upon hearing a fog signal.  Faced with these alternatives, it is difficult for us to criticize Commander Rising for the choices he made" " The master of the Princess of Vancouver  indicated to the Navy Board that he too had difficulties in affecting passage with the Hoyanjer in the first narrows".

This collision took place  outside of the entrance to Vancouver harbor. The entrance to the harbor is narrow, so the Whitehurst and Brannon wisely decided to remain out in the open sea, until the Hoyanjer cleared the area.
Our mission in the Navy was to train our crew. Since we were formed as a unit in 1958 we spent one weekend a month training, and two weeks every summer in formal underway training.  Our practice was to have a liberty port each month, and one of our annual trips was a port visit to Vancouver BC.   Dick Rising   CAPT USNR-Ret

 William J. "Bill" Russonello's Memories of the Collision


Both Brannon and Whitehurst were scheduled for annual drills that weekend.  Although I was Aide to Com13, I was the only officer available that weekend to oversee the engineering drills and was assigned to do just that aboard Whitehurst on Saturday and Brannon on Sunday.  I arrived on board Whitehurst about 0715 Saturday and stowed my gear and dress uniforms in Starboard After Officer's Quarters.  At about 0750 Captain Rising and the Chief Engineer said Whitehurst was not as ready to conduct engineering drills as they would like.  He asked if I would drill Brannon on Saturday and Whitehurst on Sunday.  I agreed, and immediately transferred to Brannon, leaving my gear on Whitehurst.

At the end of the day we had dinner and as there was fog slowing our progress, I decided to take a short nap in After Officers Quarters on Brannon.  To this day I am convinced I would have been on the same bunk aboard Whitehurst at the time Hoyanger poked its bow through it.  I lost all my gear and uniforms but not my life.  The photos show that compartment completely destroyed, and had Whitehurst been ready for engineering drills that day,  I would most certainly have been the only fatality of that collision. FATE.
Bill Russonello, Staten Island, NY
(Then LT. William J. Russonello, USNR)

QM2 George Williams Was Helmsman at Time of the Collision


I was a QM2 in the reserves, living in Renton in '64, doing my active reserves duty aboard the Whitehurst.

We were "center punched" by a Norwegian freighter, the Hoyanger, in a fog in Vancouver Harbor, in or about that same year.

I was below in my dress blues, dreaming of some fine "liberty" when the collision alarm sounded, then the
impact. I  rushed up to the bridge where I took the helm and personally steered the ship, (at the Captain's orders)
for a tree on the bank, and beached her on the rocks...   After my helm duties were completed, I stayed busy scribbling the log, for the next eight hours!  So much for the liberty.

Our sailors on the fantail, traded friendly snowballs with the Canadians, while waiting for us to be removed  from the rocks,
by tugs...

 Photos below contributed by Tim Dorgan 


Tim Dorgan SM2




 WWII Era | Korea War & '50s | Viet Nam & 60s |  Reunions | All Links Page | Search & Rescue
Memorial | Poetry  | Enemy Below | Taps List | Photos/Armament | History | Crews Index | Home