Mr. S. E. Stretton, Substation Superintendent, to Mr. F. J. Paine, District Sales Manager, Standard Oil Company of California3

Italian Seaplane “Santa Maria”

The following is a detailed report of the actual fueling of Commander De Pinedo’s Seaplane at the Roosevelt Lake, April 6th:

The seaplane was sighted at Lake Roosevelt 10:14 a.m. and landed a few minutes later on the east side of the Lake. In your company the writer motored to the ship, took Commander De Pinedo aboard and returned to the landing, Apache Lodge. We showed the Commander our proposed method of fueling his ship and gave him his option of fueling from the boats or bringing his ship alongside the shore and fueling through a hose, direct from our tank truck which we had driven down an abandoned road and was approximately thirty-five feet above the water’s edge. Commander De Pinedo was much elated at the method we proposed of fueling through a hose and decided it was the best plan of refueling.

The writer, accompanied by yourself, then returned to the seaplane which seemed to be having considerable difficulty “taxiing” to shore. They cut off their motors and signalled us alongside. We took them in tow and asked the assistance of another small out-board motor boat commanded by three young boys. The two boats then towed the seaplane to shore.

A funnel was placed in the right pontoon and the writer climbed aboard and held our hose, (which was directly connected to our tank truck), in the funnel. George Miller was at the faucet of the tank truck. Mr. Sayer from our Home Office remained with Mr. Miller during the refueling. Mr. Arnold from our Home Office stood at the right wing of the monoplane and steadied it. He remained at this point until fire broke out.

While the writer was holding the nozzle of our fueling hose in the funnel, the Italian mechanic came from inside the ship with a copper 1-gallon oil funnel and placed it under the hose in the funnel and filled it with gasoline. He washed the measure, then threw the gasoline overboard alongside the pontoon. He filled the funnel again and poured some on his hand in an attempt to determine the quality of the fuel being received; a portion of this was also thrown overboard. He then went below ship.

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We filled the tanks on the right pontoon and the writer then climbed aboard the left pontoon, keeping the hose in hand at all times—not a drop of gasoline was spilled. We then filled the left pontoon. During the fueling the pilot made frequent trips below and advised the writer each time just how much fuel was passing into the tanks. From the pilot’s conversation the tanks were evenly filled and not too full. The funnel was removed and the caps put on and tightened with a wrench by the ship’s mechanic. Our hose was then pulled across and loaded on our truck and faucets locked. The writer left the ship at this point and climbed the bank to our truck.

The writer was standing beside the truck, accompanied by Mr. Howe, Special Agent at Miami, Mr. Ewing, Special Agent at Globe, Mr. George Miller, driver of the truck, Mr. Arnold, of the Home Office and others, when the pilot came from the left pontoon with a large water bucket filled with liquid and stated “Who wants some gasoline?” Nobody answered so he threw it on the water between the two pontoons and down next to the motor boat which we used to tow him ashore. He went below again and immediately returned with another bucket of gasoline and threw that overboard at approximately the same place. The writer did not see the third bucket of gasoline but Mr. Arnold did. In all, three buckets of gasoline were thrown between the two pontoons aside from that thrown from the copper measure as mentioned above.

When this gasoline was thrown on the water, Mr. Miller immediately suggested that we get the truck away as someone might throw a match near the water. He then started the truck and the parties mentioned above were assisting him in guiding him up the old road when we hit a soft place and the truck stuck and we were unable to move it further. Mr. Miller suggested the removal of the governor in order to have more power. This was okehed and he was in the act of doing this when someone shouted “fire.” The writer turned immediately, saw the pilot rush out the right wing and dive into the water. He made no effort whatever to combat the flames. The ship’s mechanic jumped from the front of one of the pontoons. Mr. Miller and the writer took the fire extinguishers from the truck and ran down the bank in an effort to stop the flames. The Pyrene was taken from the writer by yourself and you immediately boarded the ship, followed closely by Mr. Miller, Mr. Howe and the Apache Lodge cook. All was done that was possible but the flames had gained too much headway as the gasoline thrown upon the water had covered a great area and had set the hydroplane afire at many places.

During the actual fueling of the hydroplane the writer cautioned all those ashore regarding smoking and lighting matches. No smoking [Page 125] was done during the fueling of the ship. The writer did not feel, however, that he should take full command of the situation after we had finished fueling.

We delivered 212 gallons in approximately forty minutes, finishing this work between twenty and fifteen minutes of twelve. The fire broke out at five minutes past twelve o’clock. We had billed the products and received check from Commander De Pinedo and cleared our truck away before fire started.

From the writer’s viewpoint, the blame should be placed solely upon the crew of the Italian seaplane.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Under Secretary of State by Mr. Philip H. Patchin, assistant to the president of the Standard Oil Company of California, in a letter dated Apr. 14, 1927; not printed.