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Death count at 20 with 13 still missing

May 27, 1985

ALGECIRAS, Spain (AP) _ The death toll from explosions in two oil tankers stood at 20 Monday, with 13 people still missing. King Juan Carlos praised a young man for rescuing 10 men who jumped into the sea from the blazing ships.

Several thousand people attended a Roman Catholic funeral Mass for the victims of the Sunday explosions in this port city west of Gibraltar. Both ships sank in the bay.

Flags flew at half staff throughout the city, on poles wrapped with black crepe. Monsignor Antonio Dorado Soto, bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, conducted the Mass. The victims were crewmen of the Panamanian-registered Petragen One and the Spanish tanker Camponavia, and workers at the refinery next to which the explosions occurred.

Antonio Fernandez, the provincial government spokesman, announced the latest casualty figures.

Juan Carlos visited 14 of the injured in a hospital and talked with their families. Then he met 18-year-old Francisco Javier Blesa and praised him for his bravery.

Blesa was fishing with friends in a small boat when the explosions ripped through the two tankers. The Petragen One was unloading naphtha from Libya and the Camponavia was taking on jet fuel.

He told the king he took his friends back to shore, then went back out and pulled 10 men into his boat.

Navy frogmen continued the search Monday for bodies of victims trapped in the sunken hulls of the two vessels.

Refinery director Jose Maria Pons said divers reported that part of the Petragen One’s deck was on top of the other vessel.

Officials said they had not determined the cause of the explosions, but speculated that it was an accumulation of gas in a hold of the Petragen One.

The Panamanian-registered ship carried a crew of 23 South Koreans and six Japanese officers. All 31 men on the Camponavia were Spanish.

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