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St. Petersburg man dies in ship fire

A civilian crew member from St. Petersburg was killed and another man was still missing Sunday after an ammunition ship caught fire Saturday afternoon at an Army terminal on the Cape Fear River.

Commander Jim McPherson, a spokesman at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., said 35-year-old Paul Powell died in the engine room of the MV Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr. on Saturday.

A search for Horace Beasely, 45, of Gretna, Va., was called off Sunday afternoon and is now considered a recovery mission, said Marge Holtz, spokeswoman for U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command. Authorities believe Beasely, an engine utility man, jumped ship when the fire started.

No other injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard reported early Sunday morning that three people were killed, but later revised the figure to one. Barry attributed the report of three deaths to a miscommunication during the chaos of the fire and the search.

Barry said the investigation is ongoing and that a cause for the fire has not been determined.

The Edward Carter is a 950-foot contract vessel based in Norfolk, Va. that hauls ammunition and other cargo. The ship, which is owned and operated by Norfolk-based Maersk Line, Ltd., was chartered to the Navy but had a civilian crew. It was headed for Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

A crew of 20 was on board when a fire broke out in the engine room about 4 p.m., according to Col. Ron Heiter, commander of Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal.

"An engine room fire is one of the most dangerous fires you can have on a ship, and then when you combine it with the cargo they were carrying, you have to be careful," McPherson said.

The fire was contained to the engine room.

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