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USS The Sullivans listing on the shore of Lake Erie

As of Thursday evening, The Sullivans could be seen listing (tilting in the water) and the rear deck had started to go underwater.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — USS The Sullivans is taking on water.

The Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park told 2 On Your Side back in February 2021 that USS The Sullivans was in danger of sinking. As of Thursday evening, The Sullivans could be seen listing (tilting in the water) and the rear deck had started to go underwater.

Salvage crews used massive pumps to get water out of the ship. Divers from BIDCO Marine Group went to assess the damage. The Coast Guard, Buffalo Firefighters, and DPW assisted as well. 

It's believed that the thin hull may have been punctured near the back of the ship, however, the exact cause has not yet been determined. It was suspected that the weather may have played a factor.

The Buffalo Police Department and the Buffalo Fire Department have closed off Memorial Walkway near USS The Sullivans as a precaution. We're also told the street by Mariner Towers is also closed.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday a City of Buffalo spokesperson said the ship had taken on an estimated 3 million gallons of water and that a number of water pumps would continue operation overnight with crews on hand.

Full operation is scheduled to resume Friday morning at 7 a.m.

According to Paul Marzello, the president and CEO of the Naval and Military Park, it was unclear Thursday if the ship was touching the bottom of the canal. Divers were sent into the water later in the day to take a look.

"We had everybody down here that thought they could do something to help down here first things this morning trying to figure out what we could do to save this ship," said Marzello.

The United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo posted on Facebook just before 11:30 a.m. saying in part, "Efforts are ongoing to locate the source of the flooding and eventually de-water the vessel once it’s been patched."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued the following statement Friday morning regarding The Sullivans:

"This morning, the U.S.S. The Sullivans took on water and is partially sinking due to a major hull breach. Efforts are underway to evaluate the situation and take appropriate action to preserve this critical piece of our nation’s naval heritage. The Department of Public Works and the Buffalo Fire Department are on-site and coordinating with the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Servicemen’s Park staff to determine the next course of action."

Just last week USS The Sullivans celebrated the 79th anniversary of its launch. In honor of the day, Congressman Brian Higgins was at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park to announce that $490,000 in federal funding was secured for the ship. 

To date, over $1 million has been raised to help "Save the Sullivans" after the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park reported that the hull was damaged. Work began last summer to prevent the ship from sinking but crews were forced to stop in October. Lake Erie had gotten too cold by that point which prevented the adhesive used to repair the damage from properly working.

USS The Sullivans (DD-537) is a 78-year-old Fletcher-Class destroyer that was used in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War. The ship is named after the five Sullivan brothers who were serving on the USS Juneau together when they were all killed in action on its sinking in 1942. The ship is a national historic landmark.

WATCH for more on the history of USS The Sullivans:


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