A tanker ship exploded in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia's eastern shore, killing at least 3 people.
On Sunday morning, emergency crews were searching for an additional 18 missing crew members, according to U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Krys Hannum. The ship was carrying 3.5 million gallons of ethanol, and Hannum said early evidence indicated the blast was an accident.
Six people were rescued from a life raft within three hours after the accident.
The ship was about 50 miles offshore when it exploded and sank to the bottom of the ocean. With water temperatures below 50 degrees, the likelihood of survival was slim as hours wore on Sunday morning.
Crew members who were sleeping at the time the blast occurred were not wearing gear to protect them against cold water.
The crew had 24 Filipinos and three Greeks, according to reports from Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises Ltd., a Greek company that owns the craft.
The 570-foot ship was on its way from New York to Houston.
Coast Guard reports indicated ethanol spilled would dissipate quickly at sea with minor impact on the environment, although it was unclear Sunday morning how many gallons of the substance had spilled.
More links on Explosion