The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Fortune (Schooner), struck by lightning, 1 May 1862

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TWO MEN KILLED BY LIGHTNING ON LAKE ERIE. - CORONER'S INQUEST. - Two men named John Corbitt and Neal Duncan, the former aged 38 years and the latter 27,
were killed by lightning on Thursday evening last, about 8 o'clock, on the schooner FORTUNE, while bound for this port. The facts as elicited before Coroner Randall on Saturday afternoon, are in substance as follows: When about 190 miles west of here, on the evening of Thursday at about 8 o'clock, the forerunners of a storm became noticeable. Dark clouds loomed up, and were accompanied by frequent claps of thunder and flashes of lightning. Corbitt and Duncan, who were first and second mates respectively, were engaged in setting the foresail, one on either side of the boom, and all hands engaged very near to
them. A sailor named James Schooler was standing on the boom, almost over the head of Corbitt, engaged in arranging the sail. They had not been long at this point when a terrific flash flash of lightning was seen, and almost simultaneous with it a noise similar to the discharge of a cannon was heard. For a few minutes everything was shrouded in impenetrable darkness. Captain Hallowell was standing aft near his cabin, and thinking that the lightning had taken effect, ordered the men to take any person that might be injured aft. One of the sailors who has suffered from slight injury, walked into the cabin, and in a short time was followed by others of the men who bore the senseless body of the second mate Duncan. The unfortunate man breathed a few times and expired. Upon a further examination it was found that Corbitt, the first mate, had been struck dead, and lay on the deck where he fell. Schooler who stood on the boom was struck down, and fell over the bodies of the other men, who also had been felled to the deck by the terrific stroke.
      The Captain states that the flash did not seem to him, like an ordinary flash of lightning, but rather as if something had exploded over the heads of the men; and all agreed that the noise was like the discharge of a cannon. To one of the men it seemed as if a hugh bomb-shell had exploded in their midst. What is wonderful about it, the charge wasted all its force among the men.
      The ill-fated men were both residents of Detroit, Michigan, and we learn that Duncan was a Scotsman by birth.
      The flags of all the vessels in the harbor floated at half-mast yesterday, in respect to the memories of the deceased sailors.
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Monday, May 5, 1862

      . . . . .

      THE DEAD SAILOR. - The Detroit Advertiser, speaking of the mate John Corbet whose death by lightning we noticed yesterday, says; " Mr. John Corbett was well known in this city, where his family reside. He was as strictly sober and industrious a man as ever stepped on board a vessel. He went out to Liverpool from here twice on two of our lake vessels as mate and navigator, and ranked high as a thorough going seaman. This, we believe, was the commencement of his third season on board the FORTUNE."
      Buffalo Daily Courier
      Tuesday, May 6, 1862

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Reason: struck by lightning
Lives: 2
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.454166 Longitude: -81.121388
William R. McNeil
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Fortune (Schooner), struck by lightning, 1 May 1862