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Galveston County John Doe was a crewman aboard the V. A. Fogg tanker that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico on February 1st, 1972. Only three bodies would be recovered from the tragedy, with the decedent being the only crewman out of the three to remain unidentified.

Case

The SS Four Lakes was a modified T2 tanker built in 1943 to aid in the war effort during World War II. After the war, the tanker was later sold into private ownership and renamed the SS V. A. Fogg in 1971 only a year before its demise.

On February 1st, 1972, the tanker from Freeport, Texas, to an area 50 miles from the coast to cleanse its cargo tanks of any remaining benzene residue before making the trip to Galveston, Texas, to load cargo consisting of xylene. The ship would explode during the operation, resulting in it sinking and a mushroom cloud of smoke in its wake that could be seen by a NASA pilot and a commercial airliner. The Coast Guard was called to investigate, but a lack of light at the time caused the search to end within two hours only to return the following morning. The company that owned the tanker would report that day that the V. A. Fogg was overdue to arrive in which the Coast Guard concluded the smoke cloud must be from the ship.

Over ten days, the Coast Guard conducted aerial and surface searches for the ship and any survivors whilst also finding debris from the tanker's explosion. The ship would later be found by the MV Miss Freeport using its sonar system with divers positively identifying the wreck on February 13th, 1972. A private charter would then arrive at the wreckage after obtaining exact coordinates from the NASA pilot and a citizen on the Galveston jetties that witnessed a ball of fire in the distance.

An examination of the vessel revealed that the cargo section was completely destroyed alongside the engine order telegraph still reading "full ahead". The entirety of the ship's crew lost their lives save for the chief radio officer, William A. Shaw, who had left the vessel for an emergency medical procedure hours before the explosion. A later investigation by the Coast Guard revealed that the tanker's crew had a lack of proper training in venting and cleaning benzene, which can explode if its residual fumes come in contact with an electrical charge. This charge that would result in the explosion was likely from the V. A. Fogg's 'red devil' blower which was used to ventilate areas of the ship.

At the time of investigation, only one body had been discovered in the wreckage, that of which being Captain John Edward Christy Sr., who was sat in his cabin holding a coffee cup. Due to only one body being found at the time, Bermuda Triangle conspiracy theory authors began releasing a plethora of claims and theories that the tragedy was one of suspected paranormal circumstances, though these details would be debunked by records and photos of the wreckage in the possession of the Coast Guard. Over the weeks following the explosion, only two other bodies would be recovered, with the only unidentified victim being the decedent. In addition, the incident occurred far away from the location of the Bermuda Triangle, further debunking the paranormal conspiracies of the accident.

In the present day, the V. A. Fogg occupies a shared space with other sunken Liberty vessels and barges in an area known as the Freeport Liberty Ship Site which currently operates as an underwater park for fishermen and scuba diving enthusiasts. In addition, a memorial was constructed through the use of an anchor from the vessel alongside a plaque commemorating the 39 men who perished aboard the ship outside of the Texas City Museum.

Characteristics

  • A tattoo of a flag with a banner across the bottom located on the lateral side of the left forearm.

Clothing and accessories

  • A watch located on the left wrist.
  • Several toothpicks in the right shirt pocket.
  • A blue and gold ballpoint pen in the left shirt pocket.
  • Plaid long-sleeve shirt.
  • Khaki work pants.
  • Socks.
  • Dark loafer-type shoes.

Sources

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