The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Normandie (Propeller), U130655, collision, 8 Aug 1896

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A strange collision between the passing freighter NORMANDIE and the docked pleasure yacht AZALEA cost the life of a Port Huron businessman at Port Huron in 1896.
Edward Henkel, commander and possible owner of the yacht, was crushed to death when he accidentally fell between the hull and the dock just as the freighter rammed the AZALEA.
Henkel's wife and brother were among the people who watched the grisly death on or about the afternoon of Aug. 8. One newspaper story said Mrs. Hinkel fainted after the accident.
Another witness. Capt. S. A. Whipple, said the NORMANDIE was having difficulty steering its way up the St. Clair River. The ship, with mate Peter Larson at the helm, swerved several times that afternoon, nearly colliding with other vessels. Whipple said the NORMANDIE was not known as a difficult boat to steer and thought it might have been out of trim. As the boat was passing Port Huron, Larson said it seemed to get caught in a strong river current and started turning toward Thompson's dock and the AZALEA, which was moored there. He said he ordered the engines thrown in reverse and the wheel turned hard to starboard, but he could not prevent the crash.
The freighter first struck the stem of the side-wheeled lumber hooker SAGINAW. which was standing in the river waiting to moor at the dock after the AZALEA cast off. It glanced off the SAGINAW and struck the yacht broadside. The collision was so hard that it pushed the AZALEA into the wooden dock, causing several dock planks to crack.
Captain Henkel saw the NORMANDIE coming. Instead of jumping out of harm's way, he stayed on the deck, trying to cut the yacht free and push it down stream.
The impact of the initial crash knocked Henkel overboard. He Grabbed the rail and was hanging there when the freighter's hull swung around, ramming the AZALEA a second time. It was the second crash that killed Henkel.
Henkel's brother, Walter, rushed to help but was too late. He grabbed Henkel's arm just as the boats came together a second time. All he succeeded in doing is prevent the body from falling in the water.
Henkel was the owner of a Port Huron grocery business founded by his father. Peter Henkel. (James Donahue's shipwreck column)
      Port Huron Daily Tribune
      December 16, 1996

Steam screw NORMANDIE, U. S. No. 130655. Of 567.28 gross tons; 430.13 tons net. Built Greenbay, Wis., 1894. Home port, Milwaukee, Wis. 160.0 x 35.3 x 10.8 Of 450 nominal horsepower.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1897

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Reason: collision
Remarks: Repaired
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 42.97086 Longitude: -82.42491
William R. McNeil
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Normandie (Propeller), U130655, collision, 8 Aug 1896