8 January 1979: The Whiddy Island Disaster. Some 50 men were killed at Wide Island, Bantry Bay, when the oil tanker SS Betelgeuse was blown asunder during fuelling operations on this day. They were killed when the 11-year-old oil tanker owned by the French multinational Total exploded while offloading its cargo at the offshore jetty at the Whiddy Island oil terminal in the early hours of the morning.
‘A series of explosions broke the back of the 120,000 tonnes tanker and quickly spread to the jetty as the sea was engulfed in flames which lit up the night sky and were visible as far away as Dunmanway.
There were fears at one point that the entire terminal, owned at the time by Gulf Oil, would also be caught up in the conflagration but the fire was confined to the tanker and the jetty and the tanks emerged intact. All 42 French crew of the Betelgeuse perished in the tragedy, as did seven local men who were on the jetty at the time, Charlie Brennan, Tim Kingston, Denis O'Leary, Neilly O'Shea, Jimmy O'Sullivan, Liam Shanahan and David Warner.’
Irish Times 8 January 2009