The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), June 15, 1853

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The Ocean Wave Disaster And the Verdict of The Coroner's Jury

The Toronto Leader has a long article upon the inquiry into the cause of the destruction of the Ocean Wave, and the verdict of the Coroner's jury in the case of John Balton, one of the sufferers by that disaster. We quote the following:

"Capt. Twohy, Capt. Richardson and the jury all agree that if the watch had been properly kept on the deck the fire could not have so far before it was discovered. Whose fault it was that there was not a watch so stationed on the vessel that he could have made the discovery at once the jury do not profess to say; but it is certain that a remissness in the discharge of a necessary duty implies a defect somewhere; and it was the duty of the jury to trace home that neglect to its true source. This has not been done. Whether it be intended to exculpate Capt. Wright from the neglect attaching somewhere to keep a proper watch on deck it is difficult to say; for the jury make what appears to be a complete evasion of the point. They say that instead of any blame attaching to Captain Wright, he is to be thanked for the exertions he made to protect those on board. But the jury might have seen that the blame, if blame there was, occurred at a period antecedent to any attempt to protect those on board. The blame consisted of a line of conduct that rendered it necessary for the passengers to seek protection. The blame attaches to some one, the jury avers; for somebody must be responsible for the want of an efficient watch on deck. But they fail to fix the neglect on any one, and proceed to exculpate the Capt. from all censure for the part he took after the fire broke out. The protracted enquiry of the jury has indeed been to very little purpose if all the discovery they have made is that Balton came to his death by injuries received on board the Ocean Wave; that the rapid progress of the fire, which caused such great destruction to life was owing to the absence of a sufficient look-out; but that nobody is to blame for the implied neglect. When it was discovered that a proper watch had not been kept, it would surely have been easy to ascertain whether the neglect was owing to the omission of the Captain to give the requisite orders; whether these orders being given by him were withheld by some inferior officer, or whether being ultimately given to the person who was required to observe them, they were disregarded. In this way, the neglect which the verdict states to have existed, might have been traced home to the real delinquent. Unless this be done in cases of this kind, responsibility, where the most appalling sacrifices of human life take place, is but a name; and the public will have but a small guarantee against the re-occurrence of similar accidents."

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June 15, 1853
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily News (Kingston, ON), June 15, 1853