NINE DIE AS LAKE FREIGHTER GOES DOWN RAPIDLY
AFTER TEARING BOTTOM ON ROCK IN ST. LAWRENCE
by John Scott (Globe & Mail reporter)
Morrisburg:- Investigators trying to establish why the freighter EASTCLIFFE HALL sank in 60 feet of water in the St. Lawrence River early yesterday, said the vessel was at least 100 feet off course when it struck rock and ripped a gaping hole in it's bow. Forty minutes earlier it had struck another shoal.
Nine people including the ships Captain, Albert Groulx, 42 of Montreal and his son Alain, 16, drowned when the ship went down off Cryslers Park and marina.
Also drowned were the chief engineer, William Demers of Quebec City, his wife Jacqueline, and daughter Natalie, and four members of the crew, Lawrence McDougall of Kentville N. S., Freeman Barter of Ramea, Nfld., Leonard Harris of New Chelsea, Trinity Bay Nfld., and Louis Boucher of Montreal.
Twelve members of the crew survived. Eleven were picked up by three Provincial Police Officers from Morrisburg after they clung to floating planks and other debris. First mate, Julien Marchand, 55 of Champlain, Quebec., was plucked from the crossbar of the ships mast.
Early last night five of the bodies, including that of Captain Groulx, had been recovered by divers from the O. P. P. detacbment. The captains body was found in the wheel-house, where he had remained when his ship started to sink. The other bodies were all found in cabins below deck. Divers believe the remaining bodies were also trapped in cabins and later last night torches were taken down to cut away the cabin doors. Police stopped searching for the remaining bodies at 7 p.m. yesterday. They said diving would resume at 7 a.m. today.
Navigation through the channel was resumed late yesterday, after being halted for 12 hours following the sinking, will be closed to shipping at 7. a.m., Seaway Authorities said.
Two of the survivors, Samuel Youngs and Joseph Dupuis of Midland, were treated at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital for cuts, Mr. Youngs required 12 stitches to close a wound in his leg.
The sinking, the first to occur in this part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, is being investigated by a joint team from the Board of Transport Commissioners and the U. S. Coast Guard.
Only the masts and rigging of the 349 foot freighter, remained above water. The ship was owned by the Hall Corp. of Canada, Montreal.
It plunged to the bottom within three minutes of striking the rock with such force, that people camping on the shore a quarter of a mile away heard the noise when the rush of water blew the hatch covers off.
The ship was en-route to Cleveland from Sorel, Quebec, with a 4,000 ton cargo of pig-iron.
One of the survivors Patrick Tollins, 31, of St. Catharines, said he had just gone on deck when the vessel went aground for the first time. This was about 3.05 a. m. Tollins said he heard a loud crunch when the ship scraped bottom and I knew we had gone aground, so I went to the cabins to call everybody and told them they had better get up because the ship
had gome aground. This was 40 minutes before the vessel struck the rock and sank.
Mr. Tollins, a wheelsman, said he then ran to his cabin, put on his life-belt, grabbed his passport and went to the wheelhouse, where he asked Capt. Groulx for permission to lower the lifeboats. He said that by the time he eventually got out on deck, the ship had run aground a second time, "I knew she was going down because she was taking on water fast.
So I jumped. But the water sucked me right down with the ship". He said he and the other members of the crew who were on deck at the time, had no chance to lower the lifeboats, because the ship nosed down so fast and at such an angle they were unable to get the davits to work. He said two of the crew, second engineer, Marcel Gendron, 42, of Batiscan Quebec, and third engineer, Jobn Scott of Montreal, were blown 50 feet in the air through the engineroom hatch, when the air was forced out by rushing water.
James Fraser, superintendent of engineering for Hall Corp., said Captain Groulx had worked for the Company for several years. He said the ship was built in 1956 and had a replacement value of 4 million.
Mr. Fraser said the company would begin salvage operations as soon as all the bodies were recovered.
Anothers of the survivors, Mr.Youngs, 26, of Ramea, Nfld., said he was at the wheel when the ship grounded the first time, he said he was ordered to go below decks at this time to sound the tanks in the ships double bottom to see if it was taking on water, and the wheel was taken over by Mr. Marchanad, the first mate.
Mr. Youngs later told investigators, that at no time had he experienced any mechanical difficulty with lhe steering mechanism. He said he had no idea why the vessel had passed on the wrong side of the buoys that mark the channel.
One of the investigators from Ogdensburg, N. Y. said there was no doubt the ship was out of the channel at the time of the grounding. He said preliminary investigation showed it had passed on the south, or the U. S. side of the channel black buoy marking the channel instead of the north side. The inital grounding was on the U. S. side of the channel but the ship sank in the Canadian section.
O. P. P. Constable Harold Theriault, who was one of the three police officers to commandeer three power boats at the marina to search for survivors, said he found II of the men about three quarters of a mile down-river from where the ship sank, clinging to floating debris. "They were all wearing life-jackets, and were yelling and hollering for help," Constable Theriault said.
He said he and constable Lee MoCaslin steered the power-boats in and around the men and hauled them in one at a time. The survivors were taken to a nerby motel and were given rooms. The Company provided each of the men with $100 for there return fare to Montreal.
Other survivors, in addition to Mr. Marchant. Mr. Gendron. Mr. Scott, Mr. Tollins, Mr. Dupuis,
and Mr. Youngs were, d.eokhands Gordon Crew 30, Edward Stanley Fudge, 31, Gordon Ball 29, Walter Durmuller 25, and Donald Macdonald 26, all of Ramea, and Melvin Harris 26, of Burnt Island, Nfld.
The sinking was reported to police by Mrs. Walter Wells, whose husband owns a motel near the Marina. "It was a great boom which woke me. up," she said, "Then we began to hear people shouting Help, Help"
The vessel was the fourth owned by the company to sink in the seaway or it's extentions in six years.
The LEACLIFFE HALL collided with a Greek freighter and sank 65 miles downstream from Quebec City on Sept. 5, 1964, with a loss of three hands.
The LAWRENCECLIFFE HALL collided with a British ship and sank in Nov. 1965, in the St. Lawrence, and in October 1966, the STONEFAX sank south of St. Catharines, in a narrow reach of the Welland Canal ...
Wednesday July 15,1970