On April 24, 1943, while loading a cargo of ammunition at a Bayonne, N.J., pier, the freighter El Estero caught fire, threatening downtown Manhattan with devastation should the ship's cargo explode.Â
Coast Guardsmen under the command of Lt. Cmdr. John T. Stanley responded immediately and were soon reinforced by local firefighters. Two Coast Guard fireboats along with commercial and New York City firefighting tugs headed to the area.Â
Lt. Cmdr. Stanley boarded the freighter which was now burning out of control and he was joined by Lt. Cmdr. Arthur F. Pfister who was in charge of the Coast Guard vessels. Upon consultation with the Captain of the Port of New York, Third District commander Rear Adm. Stanley V. Parker, they decided to scuttle the ship.Â
However, the sea cocks were not accessible and so they decided to fill the vessel with water. While firefighting teams fought the blaze aboard the El Estero, the tugs arrived and took the freighter under tow, heading to deeper water away from New York City. The tugs and firefighting vessels began spraying their water cannons on the freighter, filling her holds with water. The residents of the city were warned to expect an imminent explosion.Â
Fortunately, the vessel began listing to starboard and soon thereafter sank northwest of the Robbins Reef Light, extinguishing the fires. All of the men aboard the vessel escaped harm. The fire was later ruled as accidental.