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N.C. search called off

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SOUTHPORT, N.C. — The Coast Guard abandoned its search Sunday for a crew member believed to have jumped overboard when an ammunition ship caught fire at an Army terminal, killing his co-worker.

Horace Beasely, 45, of Gretna, Va., is now presumed dead, said Marge Holtz, spokeswoman for the Navy Military Sealift Command.

Paul Powell, 35, of St. Petersburg, Fla., died Saturday when a fire broke out in the engine room of the SS Edward Carter, a 950-foot contract vessel that hauls ammunition and other cargo, officials said.

No other injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard initially reported that three people were killed, but later revised the figure to one, attributing the mix-up to a miscommunication during the chaos of the fire and the search.

The ship was docked and 20 crew members were on board when the fire broke out. The blaze was confined to the engine room and contained by midnight, the Coast Guard said. The cause has not yet been determined.

A hazardous waste team sprayed foam to prevent the fire from reaching the ammunition. About 1,300 20-foot containers of ammunition were on board.

"An engine room fire is one of the most dangerous fires you can have on a ship, and then when you combine it with the cargo they were carrying, you have to be careful," McPherson said.

A half-mile arc was cleared around the vessel and no civilians or homes were in danger, said Col. Ron Heiter, commander of Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal. The closure effectively shut down river trade, but the waterway was reopened Sunday morning.

Sunny Point handles worldwide shipment of Department of Defense ammunition, explosives and other dangerous cargo. It is the only DOD terminal equipped to handle containerized ammunition.