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FIVE DROWNED WITHIN A STONES THROW OF SYDNEY
VICTIMS ALL NEWFOUNDLANDERS
LEGAL ACTION WILL LIKELY FOLLOW
The Western Star Nov. 27 1912.
On Wednesday night last about 10:30 one of the worst disasters ever to happen on the harbor occured when the steamer "City of City",on her way to Newfoundland ports ran into the Dominion Coal Co's tug "Douglas H. Thomas" and caused the death of five young Newfoundlanders, four of them living here, and the fifth John Gover, a native of Trinity, Nfld., a member of the crew of the Thomas: The names of the other unfortunate are Charles Picco, a native of Portugal Cove, about 40 years of age, and for many years sailing out of Gloucester; Fred Sams, 18 years of age, and a native of Little River, where his father and mother now reside; John Sams a cousin of Fred, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Sams, who also live at Codroy River, and Chesley Evans, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Evans, who also live on Ingraham street, this town. With the exception of Picco, the victims were unmarried. There are many different stories as to how the accident happened, but the following sworn statement by Capt. Clinton Cook, of the Douglas H. Thomas, made during the inquest on the bodies of Gover,John Sams, Chesley Evans, will suffice until a further and complete investigation will be made. According to the Captain's evidence" he had helped the City of Sydney from her dock at Ingraham's wharf about 10 0'clock and had taken on board the stevedors, about thirty odd in number, who had been unloading the City of Sydney. The two boats steamed down the harbor in paralled courses, the latter about two lengthsaway from th City of Sydney on her starboard side, that is, the side nearest the city, When off Anderson's Point at about 10:15, owing to a turn to starboard in the channel, the City of Sydney had begun to turn her course in that direction. The Thomas, a little ahead of the big steamer, had also started to turn to starboard, and the City of Sydney turned faster and gradually the two boats came together. The mate then ran up to the bridge and said to the captain that they were getting close, but the captain replied that he could not get his helm over any further. He blew a short blast on the whistle, which meant that he was shaping his course to starboard.
However the big steamer continued to turn faster than the tug, and about 15 secinds after the whistle had blown, the big boat hit the tug a little aft of midships on her port side i.e., (the left side looking towards te bow) and heeled her over on her starboard side, until half her deck was under water, and the top of the deck-house only a foot or so above the water. The Sydney had backed away and the tug partly rightly. The mate called for lines from the Sydney, and the captain called for boats and then as the engines were still running and as the Thomas having taken so much water that she was sinking, she was headed for Westmount and beached. The captain stated that the only time he left the wheel house was to order the boats out and to go the chart room for the life peservers. Then the wheel was in charge of the first mate.
When the accident happened the tug was on her way here with some hirty-eight stevedors, who were engaged under the superintency of John Cousins, the well known stevedore, to discharge freight from the City of Sydney at Sydney. That there were many more not sent to a watery grave, is a mystery, for when the big steamer pushed over the tug, the latter began to fill and before the unexpecting men knew what happened they were grovelling around in the dark up to their middle. Mr Cousins, who was standing at the door of the engine house, says that the moment the tug careened over, her lights suddenly went out, and water swept the men off their feet, He worked himself forward, after being knocked forcibly off his feet sustaining a bad cut on his leg, and seeing the port anchor of the City of Sydney he climbed on it, followed by several other men.
Then when they were preparing for a climb up on to the deck of the steamer he heard a command from the first officer to drop the anchor. A sickening feeling came over the men at his side, for they knew that if the order was obeyed he and his comrades would be carried th the bottom. Looking up he cried with all the force at his command to the mate that he and several other men were on the anchor, and like a flash came the order to drop the starboard anchor. Simultaneously a rope was thrown over the side of the steamer, and the men on the anchor were rescued. Another narrow escape was experienced by Bob Strickland, one of the stevedores from this town. He was standing in out of the cold warming himself in the stokehold of the Thomas, and the first thing he knew that something was amiss was when the lights went out and he found himself struggling about in the water. "When I struggled to my feet," said Strickland to the North Sydney Herald,:" I bumped up against something warm in the water, and discovered it was part of the machinery. This I knew of because there was steam playing near my face, and in order to keep myself from being scalded I occasionally bathed the affected spot with the cold water. I was afraid to move in the darkness for fear of getting caught in the machinery. I knew the tus was moving through the water, and before I came to a full sense of my surroundings I heard the Thomas's side or bottom grate on the shore. Then for the first time I found I was not alone, for groans reached my ear.
I cried out to the unknown and found out it was Peter Penney. He follwed the sounds, made by my voice, and soon he was at my side. Then i heard some one calling if there was anybody down there, and yelling back, and soon delivered from my dangerous position by the second engineer, who at great risk saved my companion and myself from our perilous predicament."
On Thursday morning, a number of steam and sailing craft engaged in the hunt for the missing bodies, and after considerable work the bodies Gover, John Sams, and Chesley Evans were recovered. The other men are still missing. The tug sustained but slight damage and was able to assist in the hunt for the drowned men.
The next thing of importance is to fix the blame for the collision. That such an incident should occur on the harbor, when the scene was lighted up by hundreds of electric lights on board the steamer and tug making the surroundings asd bright as day, seems to call for a rigid investigation. It is said lawyers have been consuled by the relatives of the dead men, who will take action to recover heavy damages.- N.S. Herald
Page Transcribed by Peter Crosland (May 2000)
Page Revised August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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