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Air View Shows No Evidence of Explosion and Fire With AM-Battleship Explosion Bjt

April 19, 1989

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The USS Iowa was steaming for Puerto Rico hours after a gun turret explosion and fire Wednesday that killed 47 sailors, trailed by the Coral Sea, an aircraft carrier with full medical facilities.

No damage could be seen from a chartered jet.

Svend Ovesen, the pilot, said the Navy had told aircraft to stay 25 miles from the Iowa, but we moved in close for a better view. Our plane approached at 500 mph, then Ovesen lowered the landing gear and circled the battleship at 130 mph.

Two jets took off from the USS Coral Sea, but there was no effort to interfere with us.

The explosion in one of the Iowa’s three turrets occurred during a gunnery exercise 330 miles northeast of Puerto Rico, the Navy said.

By 4 p.m. EST, the 887-foot vessel was 205 miles north of Puerto Rico, heading south toward the island’s Roosevelt Roads naval base. Whitecaps dotted the calm blue of the Caribbean.

Three other Navy ships besides the Coral Sea could be seen in the area.

At an altitude of 500 feet and an equal distance from the Iowa, no signs of exterior damage could be seen and no one appeared to be on deck.

In two forward turrets, the guns pointed off to the right, but the three 16-inch guns of the rear turret were pointed straight astern.

″Those turrets normally should be pointing straight when they’re not being fired,″ said George Tomlinson of Bholke Int. Airways, owner of the plane, who accompanied the reporter and Tito Guzman, a photographer for the daily El Nuevo Dia.

″Their being in all different directions like that, off to one side, means something’s wrong,″ said Tomlinson, a former Marine.

Navy officials said the explosion occurred in the second of the two forward turrets, which normally is manned by 27 sailors but can hold 60 or 70. A huge U.S. flag is painted on the top surface of the turret.

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