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The Weekly Record, June 18, 1887

Marine Court Of Inquiry
The "Plover" and "Trixie H."

 

 

The following is the finding of the Marine Court of Inquiry, composed of Judge Conroy, Captain Robinson, R.N., and Captain Green, as reported by our contemporary The Colonist: -

    From the evidence brought before the court, it appears that the Trixie H. was a schooner of 84 tons burden, was standing W.N.W., across Trinity Bay with the wind N.N.E. or about two points free, at 10:10 p.m., on May 21st. She sighted a masthead light, and about 10:20 p.m. she sighted the red light of a steamer. She kept her course until she was close to the steamer

    Plover, which was keeping a steady course of S.E., and then she put her helm up, running across the bow of the steamer and being cut down, fell over on her starboard side, filled, and in so doing drowned three men and two women.

    It appears that the master of the S.S. Plover had gone below for a few minutes, before the accident happened, the watch being in charge of Mr. Batterton, the second officer, who was not on the bridge when the vessel was struck, and did not stop the ship or reverse the engines; he appears to have only seen the schooner a few moments before she was struck, and either did not realize their position, or failed to act promptly, as the man on the look-out, Patrick Smith, stopped and reversed the engines, and gave the order "hard a port", before he did so. The schooner was evidently struck when the engines were stopped, with full way on her going eight knots.

    Mr. Batterton saw no light on the schr., but Patrick Smith saw a dim light, he could not swear it was green. It appeared to him that it might be seen twice the length of the Plover.

    Thomas Walsh was on the forecastle with the men on the lookout, he saw no light on board the schooner, and nothing to resemble a light. The only light he saw was her binnacle light where he went to assist the man at the wheel.

    The second officer and the two men on the lookout did not see the schooner until she was sixty or eighty yards off, she was close to the schooner when they first saw the sails and a dim light, according to Patrick Smith.

    A few minutes before the collision, Mr. W. Costigan, a passenger, was smoking on the steps of the after companion when he notice a greenish light on the port side of the steamer; he thought it was a long way off, perhaps two or three miles, and the exact direction he was unable to describe, but it was on the port side and he saw it for three minutes, and he thought he saw another dim light, he was quite sure that it was not Baccalieu light. He was watching the light from the companion five or sic minutes, perhaps ten, when the vessel was struck by the steamer.

    The master of the Trixie H., Robert Percy, was standing about the windlass of his schooner, and swears that his green light was burning brightly.

    Levi Williams was below just before the collision, but rushed up and saw the green light of the schooner from on board the Plover, Jonas Steward lighted both the schooner's light about 8 o'clock, and saw them burning prior to the accident; so that there is a conflict of testimony with regard to the schooner's lights that can only be reconciled by supposing the the look-out on board the Plover was inefficient.

    Mr. Batterton was standing by the standard compass instead of being on the bridge, so that he was not in a position to set promptly, and his duty on a dark night as this was should have kept him near the engine room telegraph and the man at the wheel.

    One of the look-out men saw a dim light, the other saw none; yet a passenger aft noticed the light for several minutes previous to the collision. Under these circumstances it appears that a light was visible from the schooner, and it should have been seen either by the second officer or the two forward men on the lookout.

    The court are of the opinion that the evidence laid before them established the light being visible on the schooner.

    The duty of the steamer, in this case, was to avoid the sailing vessel, which she failed to perform.

    With regard to the management of the Trixie H., the evidence shows that although the steamer was seen for twenty minutes previous to the accident, and her red light and her mast-head light plainly visible, yet no precautionary measures were taken to avoid a collision. The vessel might have been brought to the wind, headed north-west, so as to give the steamer a berth during a dark night, time being no object, she was a long distance from her destination.

    The steamer expected to get out of her way, which was perfectly correct; but when she drew nearer and nearer without altering her course, the prudent course should have led the master to haul to the wind, or go round, so as to bring his red light to the steamer's red light. No such course, however, was adopted, but the vessel's helm put hard up, forty or sixty yards from the steamer, and the result was as might have been expected.

    The court are of the opinion that nothing could justify the master of the Trixie H> running towards the steamer, when if he had kept his course as the rule of the road demands, the probabilities are in favor of his escaping with less serious damage; he would have probably lost his jib boom and bowsprit, perhaps the foremost by striking the steamer abeam or on the counter, but it is quite possible that he might have cleared her stern, and he certainly would have done so if the helm had been put down.

    Under the circumstances the court are of opinion that the steamer was in fault by failing to keep a sufficient look-out, but the master cannot be blamed as he was below and could not be expected to remain on the bridge all night.

    The master of the schooner evidently presumed on the good look-out generally kept on board these steamers, and made a grave error at the last moment, resulting in the loss of the vessel and fives lives.

    Sir W. V. Whiteway, Q.C., and Mr. Johnson appeared for the owners of the Plover and the captain: Mr. Kent, Q.C., and Mr. Emerson for the owners of the Trixie H.; the hon. J. S. Winter and Mr. Morison for the underwriters.

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Page transcribed by: James Butler, 2001
Page revised: Oct. 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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