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Two disasters 40 years apart haunt Atlantic waters

Andrea Doria wreck

July 26, 1996
Web posted at: 2:00 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jeff Flock

KINGS POINT, New York (CNN) -- Last week's TWA crash has focused the world's attention on the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, much the same as it was almost 40 years ago when the Andrea Doria went to its watery grave not far away. (1.3MB QuickTime movie)

On July 25, 1956, the Italian passenger liner collided with the Swedish liner, Stockholm, off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Fifty-two people, mostly passengers on the Italian ship, were killed or unaccounted for. The Andrea Doria, which sank the next day, was lost on the ocean floor.

"I'm sorry, I start to cry, I'm sorry. Very hard for me to remember, this is terrible," said one survivor, Angela Grillo.

mother and son

Grillo's son, Anthony, was 3 years old when the two ships collided. He remembers the night and his actions, even though he was very young.

Against the backdrop of the July 17 crash of Flight 800 that killed 230 people, the Andrea Doria survivors gathered for a reunion to remember loved ones they lost and those they saved. One woman recalled jumping into the ocean to save her daughter. Another still has her ticket.

They even relived the collision on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's bridge simulator. From the dark bridge of the Stockholm, the simulator showed there was only pitch blackness and dense fog.

There were no radios to communicate between ships, and the Andrea Doria was visible only as a blip on the Stockholm's radar. By the time the ships could see each other, it was too late.

Now in 230 feet of water, the site is an underwater museum and treasure chest for divers brave enough to venture that far down.

"It has been called the Mount Everest of scuba diving because it is so deep to the bottom," said diver Steve Bielenda.

Not far from the shipwreck, divers and ships now search for the wreckage of the Boeing 747. Their base is the same East Moriches, New York, Coast Guard station that heard the Doria's first distress call 40 years ago.

"I try to forget and not to think. I know that experience. I don't want to think," Angela Grillo said.

Many would rather not think about either disaster, then or now.

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