The bodies of six sailors killed in a fire aboard a U.S. Navy supply ship were flown Wednesday to Clark Air Base.

The sailors were killed and five others injured when fire broke out Tuesday in the engine room of the USS White Plains as it was 100 miles east of Hong Kong, heading back to Guam after supporting Persian Gulf operations.The accident occurred three weeks after an explosion inside a gun turret on the battleship Iowa left 47 sailors dead off Puerto Rico.

About 100 people were on hand when the coffins, each draped in an American flag, were taken off a Navy C-2 transport plane at this American-run base 50 miles north of Manila.

"We mourn six brave Americans in this tragic accident," Rear Adm. Roger Rich, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Philippines, said during the half-hour ceremony. "This is an irreplaceable loss for our country. This is an irreplaceable loss for the American people."

Crewmen aboard the White Plains, a food stores ship, battled the blaze for more than an hour before bringing it under control. The ship was in the South China Sea at the time.

U.S. officials said the White Plains was being towed today toward the American-run base at Subic Bay, 50 miles west of Manila. Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Mukri said the vessel was expected to arrive by Sunday. Mukri said a U.S. Navy team was being assembled to investigate what caused the blaze.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard said the fire occurred "in the main engine spaces." A Navy source said it apparently involved a fuel leak in and around the ship's No. 3 boiler.

The 581-foot White Plains is based at the Pacific island of Guam and is crewed by a normal complement of 403 enlisted men and 25 officers.

None of the victims' relatives were on hand for the ceremony. Murki said the bodies were brought to Clark because it has an extensive mortuary.


(Additional information)

Fire fatalities and injuries

The Pentagon Tuesday released a list of the six sailors killed and five injured in a fire aboard the USS White Plains.

The dead:

Muoi Cao, 22, Ventura, Calif., boiler technician 3rd class

Todd Allan Follis, 22, Lake Nebagamon, Wis., fireman apprentice

Paul Dennis Novotny, 22, Howells, Neb., machinist mate-fireman apprentice.

Darryl Dushon Edwards, 20, Flossmor, Ill., machinist mate-fireman apprentice.

Baxter Lesarlley, 26, Santa Fe, N.M., boiler technician.

Jon David Ruhmel, 20, Elmira, N.Y., boiler technician 2nd class.

The injured:

James Henry Britt, 24, Nashville, Tenn., damage control technician 2nd class

Keith Gerald Landry, 22, Greenwell Springs, La., machinists mate 3rd class

Darryl Jerome Williams, 24, Birmingham, Ala., boatswain's mate.

Walter Rufus Greggs Jr., 41, Mobile, Ala., boiler technician chief.

William Carl Glascoe, 25, Randolph, N.Y., boiler technician 1st class.