Today, May 15th in 1952 The tanker F. L. Hayes and freighter Barbara Lykes collided in the C & D Canal that caused an explosion, killed 4 crewmen and ignited a fire that burned for 3 weeks.
From "the Middletown Transcript", Middletown, Newcastle County, Delaware
May 15, 1952
Tanker Blows Up Near Summit Bridge
Vessel With 600,000 Gals. Gas Aboard Collides With Other Freighter
Explosion Halts Traffic
The motor tanker F.L. Hayes, carrying more than 600,000 gallons of high octane gasoline, exploded and caught fire in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal early today after it was reported to have collided with another ship near Summit Bridge.
Six injured crewmembers, including the tanker’s captain, were rescued and taken to the Delaware Hospital, Wilmington. Four other members of the crew still were missing at 5:15 a.m.
The tanker captain, Roger Sears of New York, said the explosion occurred after his craft was struck by the freighter Barbara Lykes. The latter ship apparently was not damaged.
Bigger Explosion Feared
Only part of the tanker’s cargo went up in the initial blast, which occurred a few minutes after midnight. Two other explosions followed within an hour. As the flames raging through the vessel threatened to set off another explosion, which police said carried the danger of death over a radius of half a mile, all traffic across the Summit Bridge was halted.
Cars were blocked from roads in the vicinity for a distance of one mile. However, state police reported Summit Bridge was opened to traffic at 4:45 a.m. Police said the boat was still burning, but that the fire had subsided somewhat.
The collision and explosion occurred at a point about a quarter of a mile east of Summit Bridge. Immediately after the blast, C.B. Brown, superintendent of construction at Summit Bridge, notified state police, and fire companies were rushed to the scene from Delaware City and New Castle.
In addition there is the excellent site at Chesapeake City which has photos.