Daily Event for December 8

December 8, 1966: The Greek ferry Heraklion sank off Falconcra Island off Greece. Built as the Leicestershire by Fairfield Shipbuilding in Glasgow in 1949, she was owned by the Bibby Line and used on the UK to Burma route. She was chartered for a great deal of time to the British India Line to supplement it's London to East Africa service. In 1964 she was sold to the Typaldos Line and registered under the Aegean Steam Navigation Co. banner.

The ship was refit as a passenger/car ferry and renamed Heraklion. She provided regular service between Crete and Piraeus, Greece. The final voyage of the Heraklion began on Dec. 7, 1966 from Crete with two hundred and eighty eight passengers and crew and a "healthy" load of cars and trucks bound for the mainland.

She sailed on a stormy Wednesday into the Aegean Sea. The ship, appeared to be able to handle such weather but, the cars and trucks below had not been secured properly. As the waves rocked the ship the vehicles in the hold began to move. The final blow came when a refrigerated truck slammed into the bow doors, forcing them open enough to allow water, driven by gale force winds, into the ship. A distress call from the Heraklion went out at 2 a.m. stating that the ship was in danger of sinking. The Greek Navy, Air Force and two British minesweepers responded to the call. Only thirty minuets after the call went out one of the rescue ships was on the scene.

No sign of the Heraklion was found. There was only debris where the ship had gone down. Forty seven survivors were found on the rocks on Falconcra Island and picked up by the HMS Ashton and HMS Leverton, the remaining two hundred and forty one people perished with the ship.

The Greek government's investigation found the ship's owners guilty of negligence for several reasons. No drill for abandoning ship, a delay in sending a distress call and no organization of rescue work by the ship's officers. The company was also charged with manslaughter and faking documents. Haralamos Typaldos, the owner of the company and Panssyotis Kokkinos, the general manager were both sentenced to jail in 1968. It was also found that twelve of the companies fifteen ships failed inspection under Greek shipping standards. This ultimately caused the closure of the company.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock