Above photo: Job’s boots were blown off his feet in the explosion but later recovered. The force of the explosion separated half the boot from the soles in both.
Last month we told you about an explosion and fire that killed two men from Little Bay Islands onboard a vessel. A third man miraculously survived. Job Goudie, from Springdale, was delivering gasoline to a small tanker vessel that was docked in Little Bay near Springdale, on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, when a fire, that started in the forecastle of the boat, ignited the gasoline that, in turn, spread to the tanker truck on the wharf. The explosion was heard miles away. Job was blasted into the air and landed in the ocean. The other two men were not so fortunate. This is Part II of The Survival and Patience of Job.
It all happened in a flash — literally.
Job was on deck peering down into the forecastle of the Notre Dame watching his friend and owner of the vessel, Rollie Weir attempt to put out what must have been smoldering flames in the vicinity of an oil-stove in the forecastle. Within seconds, Job was in the middle of a massive fireball that blasted him airborne.
“I can visualize it right now as clear as if it happened this morning,” Job says, adding that he’s relived the scene in his mind hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times in the past four decades. He was 35 when the accident occurred in 1978.
Rollie threw what Job assumed was water from a bucket and suddenly there was a huge explosion. Flames traveled instantly to ignite at least a thousand gallons of gasoline in storage tanks in the amidships hold of the boat. The vessel’s own engine fuel tanks were probably next to ignite and the tanker truck on the wharf that was in the process of pumping gas to the storage tanks onboard the Notre Dame followed a split second later.
Burning gasoline travels rapidly so it was mere seconds before the boat, wharf and truck had all turned into one huge inferno.
Following the initial explosion, Job’s recollection starts when he realized he was in the ocean. He doesn’t remember being blown into the air, but obviously the explosion mimicked the effects of a rocket launcher and propelled him upwards from the deck. Fortunately, he was blown over the starboard side of the vessel and landed in the ocean.
Rollie Weir and his 28-year old crewman, Ralph King, were not so fortunate.
Like Job, it appears Ralph was propelled upwards from the deck of the Notre Dame, but sadly his body was flung in the opposite direction and he landed on the wharf in the early stages of the fireball. Whether Ralph was still alive when he landed on the wharf is not known because he was engulfed in flames. There was no chance of rescue or survival.
Rollie, age 48, died in the forecastle/galley of the vessel. There are unconfirmed reports that a large piece of flying metal struck his head and probably killed him instantly.
Landing in the water is the reason Job survived, but even with that stroke of good luck, he was in terrible condition.
In the few seconds that it took the explosion to blast him from the deck to the water, Job’s clothing had completely burnt and blown from his body. The only thing remaining was his belt. It was still buckled around his waist. His shirt, jacket, pants, socks, boots and underwear were all gone. Even a “trucker’s wallet,” as Job calls it that was chained to his clothing containing about $2,000 from weekend home heating sales was nowhere in sight — at least not for a while.
He had severe burns to his head, face and upper body and he suffered dozens of broken bones and fractures in his lower body but amazingly, he can remember a lot of details.
“I was still conscious and I knew I was in the water. And, it’s strange how the brain works but I remember clearly thinking that I had to fight to stay alive. Actually, it was more like a voice speaking to me rather than just having thoughts. I remember the voice saying ‘you have to fight — you have to fight this if you are going to survive.’”
Job heeded the “voice” and fought. He made it to the surface and saw the boat totally engulfed in flames.
“I was told later the boat split in two as a result of the explosion, but when I surfaced, all I can remember seeing was the boat on fire and I feared another explosion or series of explosions would not be far behind.”
Job saw a few pieces of debris floating nearby and oblivious to his severe injuries and burns, he managed to grab a piece of wood and clung to it as he shouted for help.
“I remember too, everything went quiet — my world went almost silent, with one exception. I could clearly hear the crackle of burning wood from the wooden hull of the boat, but I couldn’t hear anything else.”
The wharf’s timbers were also ablaze, fueled by the inferno that started in the forecastle of the Notre Dame and as Job feared when he surfaced, it spread rapidly with one explosion after another as the fire ignited the various gas and fuel links along the way to the oil tanker truck on the wharf.
It was all so fast that people say it sounded like it was just one huge explosion. The truck still had possibly 1,000 gallons of gasoline, perhaps more, onboard when the first explosion occurred.
Thankfully, no other debris or flying objects shooting into the air from the Notre Dame and the oil truck landed on top of Job. In such a weakened state, with so many broken bones and severe burns combined with the bitterly cold ocean water in May, it wouldn’t have taken much to finish him off.
But lady luck, or (as some people prefer) the creator of several small miracles would all add up to one big one that was smiling on Job Goudie that morning.
In recreating the accident in his mind, time and time again, Job says he still can’t understand how he didn’t get tangled in the riggings of the Notre Dame when he was catapulted from the deck over the side of the vessel.
Sails, supported by two masts, originally powered the Notre Dame. The aft mast had been removed before 1978, but the forward one was still there, complete with all the riggings. Recreating the scene in his mind later, Job says that from where he was bent over looking down the forecastle door at the time of the explosion to where he landed in the ocean, he would almost certainly have been caught in the web of ropes and cables that were fastened to the mast and starboard gunwale of the boat located just a few feet to the right of him. Had Job become entangled in the riggings, he would not have made it to the water.
Somehow, he escaped that calamitous detail and 40 years later, he still doesn’t understand how it was possible.
Aside from Job’s amazing personal survival, the town of Little Bay had it own share of luck that day.
Whenever a relatively large vessel docked at the wharf, inquisitive school-aged children always gathered to see what was going on. Although the Notre Dame was not an unusual sight in Little Bay, the kids were always curious about the process of transferring thousands of gallons of gasoline and fuel from a truck to a boat and a dozen or more of them would congregate on the dock to watch. But, Monday, May 29, 1978 was a school day and happily, at just after 9 a.m., not a single child was on the wharf.
Equally as interesting, there were no adults on the wharf that morning either.
Like in most Newfoundland outport communities, men in Little Bay generally congregated at the dock whenever there was activity, but oddly and thankfully, that was not the case on that day.
Meanwhile, as Job clung to debris and shouted for help, Little Bay resident Bert Dobbin and his younger brother Leonard were installing a television antenna on the roof of Bert’s house not far from the wharf.
For a few moments, the brothers could only stare toward the harbour in shock and disbelief, trying to comprehend the enormity of what had just happened. Thankfully for Job, it didn’t take the Dobbin brothers much time to figure it out and before long, the two men sprang into action.
Help was on the way.
Join us next month for Part III of The Survival and Patience of Job.