Tribute Paid to 47 Sailors Lost in USS Iowa Turret Explosion of April 1989

NORFOLK, Va. – Nearly three decades ago on April 19, 1989, tragedy struck USS Iowa during routine exercises in Puerto Rico when a gun turret explosion resulted in the loss of 47 Navy sailors. What was initially deemed as an intentional act was later revealed to be a tragic accident caused by an over-ram of gunpowder. The impact of this disaster continues to resonate with the families, friends, and crewmembers who gathered at Iowa Point at Naval Station Norfolk to pay tribute to the fallen heroes known as the Iowa 47.

John Schultz, the organizer of the ceremony, expressed the significance of properly honoring the memories of those lost in the USS Iowa tragedy. Among the attendees was Marc Garafano, who emotionally recounted the loss of his best friend, GMG3 Geoffrey Scott Schelin from Costa Mesa, California. Garafano shared the heartbreaking realization of discovering Schelin’s fate months after the incident when he stumbled upon his friend’s name in a list of the 47 deceased sailors.

As the bells tolled and the names of each fallen crewmember were read aloud, the solemn remembrance ceremony epitomized the enduring pain and grief felt by those who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Garafano acknowledged the profound impact of the tragedy, stating that many are still haunted by the harrowing memories of the fire and the aftermath of the explosion, suffering from PTSD as a result.

Despite the heartache and trauma, Garafano highlighted the silver lining of the lasting bond that has been forged among the families, friends, and crewmembers affected by the USS Iowa disaster. The gathering served not only as a memorial to honor the lives lost but also as a solemn reminder to offer ongoing support to those who have been impacted by the tragedy.

The annual ceremony at Iowa Point stands as a poignant tribute to the sacrifice and dedication of the Iowa 47, ensuring that their memory lives on in the hearts of those who continue to mourn their loss. The event serves as a testament to the resilience and camaraderie of the Navy community as they come together to honor their fallen comrades and provide solace to one another in the face of profound loss.