"I turned around," Logan remembered. "If you've never seen a [jet fuel] fire, it bubbles. It goes up in big swirls. ... It's very frightening to see. Fireballs just went up in the air. I turned around and looked and said, 'No wonder they stopped.'"
The firefighters were clearly apprehensive, he said, but also determined, ready to do their duty. As Sailors pushed whatever ammunition they could off the deck and into the sea, Repair 8 rushed past Logan and attacked the growing blaze with foam. The team's leader, Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Gerald Farrier, immediately began spraying the now-smoldering bombs.
He was too late. The two shells exploded, wiping out most of Repair 8.
"I think I was about 150 feet away ... and when Chief Farrier explodes, he's sort of vaporized, and I'm knocked back maybe 15 feet," said Logan, who sustained some minor shrapnel wounds. "There were a couple of guys with me. I know one of them made it, and I never saw the other guy again. I suspect he did not live.
I looked at my hands and I had two hands and I looked at my feet and I had two feet, and I used both of those and got off the flight deck." - Capt. C. Flack Logan
It had been less than a minute and a half since the first spark caught.
Nearby, other airplanes burned and more bombs exploded. A second DCT was all but eliminated as well, leaving other, poorly trained Sailors to continue to fight the blaze. They were brave, witnesses said, but not terribly efficient. Foam teams sprayed protective barriers that were quickly washed away by water teams, for example.
They didn't know any better, remembered Logan, who went on to help with firefighting efforts in the ship's island. It was a fire; the instinct was to use water, to do something - anything that might stop flames.
"It didn't help that the damage was located a little bit aft of midpoint and then everybody just started fighting from all directions," Davis explained. "It's kind of hard to set up for success in fighting a fire on topside when you can't really set up optimal conditions for everybody. Attacking a fire from two directions is good, unless you're pushing it at each other."
Within about five minutes, the ship was rocked with a total of nine explosions. Burning jet fuel fell into the decks below, including a number of berths where the night crew was sleeping. Logan tried yelling, "Get up! Get up!" outside the sleeping quarters, but no one came. He hoped they had already escaped. Some had. Many were already dead.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas LaGinja had been lying on his rack a level below topside, near the Forrestal's
fantail, when he heard shouts of fire, followed by running footsteps, then a call to general quarters (GQ).
"Then, I think, I heard the bomb go off under John McCain's plane," he remembered in an oral history. "My location was just maybe 20 feet behind where his airplane was and a few feet below, but separated by about four inches of steel. I must have heard that bomb go off because something caused me to rush to the starboard side without putting any clothing on.
Behind me, the ship is ablaze and there's no way to get out that way. There's this flash up above me and a tremendously loud pop. ... There was debris all around me. There was a fire in the direction I had been headed. ... I was just hoping it wouldn't be a slow death." -
PO2 Thomas LaGinja
The passageway was so dark and smoky that LaGinja, who had somehow lost his glasses in the confusion, couldn't see. He followed one of the shapes that stumbled through the p-way in front of him, finally putting his hand on a shipmate's shoulder and following along, hoping to make it to his GQ station. They reached a cooler compartment, one that was still sheltered from the fire, and then heard more explosions.
LaGinja thought, "well, the wisest thing to do is get below." He descended four decks. As he passed a DCT, "these guys that were on the hoses looked at me strangely, like they'd seen a ghost. ... The head of the damage control party took me by the arm and was leading me forward, and he was shouting, 'Gangway! Injured man!'"
LaGinja didn't realize it, hadn't felt any pain, but he was covered in blood. Shrapnel peppered his body, except the area around his eyes, which had been protected by his glasses. Corpsmen cleaned him up, tweezing out bits of glass and metal. They released him to a scene of destruction the next day, to a ship of gaping holes, burned out airplane skeletons and severed body parts.