WAS THE WILBUR RACING
The collision in the Grosse Point cut by which the steel consort MARTHA was sunk by the E. P. WILBUR so as to half block the channel, as described in the Free Press yesterday morning, is the strongest kind of argument for the government regulation of the entire channel, just as the St. Clair channel is ruled. The disaster, which means a loss of perhaps $30,000, might have been entirely avoided had the limit of speed through the channel been placed by government at, say, eight miles an hour, and all boats compelled to observe it.
Capt. Hutton, who was compelled to put his steamer, the A. A. PARKER, and consort ashore to avoid running into the wrecked boats, reported privately to his owners that the Lehigh steamer WILBUR, which sunk the Minnesota barge MARTHA, and the Western liner TROY had but a few minutes before the crash passed him at a high rate of speed, all bound up, and that he considered such action a shame. The fact that the forward end of the strong steel barge MARTHA is completely demolished for thirty feet back from the stem bears out Capt. Hutton's statement. Such radical injury could only have been caused by a propeller going at a high rate of speed. The MARIPOSA, towing the MARTHA, both deep laden with ore, down bound, could not have been going at better than seven miles an hour. Owing to the fact that their keels were within a couple of feet of the bottom. The WILBUR, on the other hand, was only partly loaded, drawing but eight feet forward, and in fine trim for racing. All of the foregoing evidence indicates that the TROY and WILBUR were racing, undoubtedly to be the first to reach the canal. As the disaster occurred in the Detroit local steamboat inspection district, the inspectors will probably know within a few weeks whether or not a race was on. Following their findings the inevitable lawsuit will also disclose the fact of a race, if there really was one.
The chief officers of the MARTHA and WILBUR, following the lake custom, are keeping close mouths, reserving their statements for the attorney's of their lines. The members of the WILBUR's crew say the MARIPOSA blew one whistle to pass to starboard, the WILBUR answered it and all went well until the WILBUR neared the MARIPOSA, when the latter sheered right towards the WILBUR, and the distance was too short to avoid a collision. This may and may not be true. But little dependence is to be placed in the offhand statements of a lot of deckhands, watchmen and wheelsmen.
In noting a protest to the underwriters yesterday Capt. Hutton, of the A. A. PARKER, states that he was bound up, about 400 feet behind the WILBUR, when he heard the crash, and saw the WILBUR and MARTHA swing across the channel ahead. He quickly ordered his wheel hard-a-port, and blew one whistle. The WILBUR answered with an alarm whistle. Capt. Hutton, with lightning quickness, had already chosen the better course. He had to decide between running into the wrecks ahead or into the mud on the channel-bank, and to the latter he went. The PARKER buried deep into the mud, and her consort, B. W. PARKER, followed her. Capt. Lohr, of the latter, also had a hard-a-port wheel, and she ran up on the starboard side of the steamer and into the mud, though not so hard. The tugs SAGINAW and WALES spent all of yesterday lightering the coal cargoes of the two.
Diver John Quinn examined the MARTHA yesterday morning and returned in the afternoon with the statement that he never saw a bow so badly smashed on any boat. He drew a diagram which indicates the MARTHA presented her port bow to the WILBUR's stem. The hole is very wide and goes in so deeply as to demolish the forecastle and break up the collision bulkhead. Three deckhands were asleep in a small room on the starboard side of the forecastle, and the mass of steel had just reached the door of their room when it lost its impact and they were enabled to open it and crawl out, and in time to escape the inrushing waters.
The MARTHA now lies on the west bank of the channel, her once shapely bow now transformed into a mass of curled and twisted steel beams and frames and plates, with a towing machine and cable, anchors and chain, steam-capstan, etc., all piled in atop of it as if to add to the general confusion. She blocks the channel about one-half, but as she will be well lighted at night, passing vessels should have no trouble getting by in both directions.
Detroit Free Press
October 28, 1900
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The U. S. Court of Appeals at Cincinnati has handed down a degree in the celebrated TROY - WILBUR - MARTHA collision case, holding the TROY and WILBUR wholly responsible and partially reversing the decision of Judge Swan of Detroit. The accident occurred on the night of October 26, 1900, in Lake St. Clair. The owners of the MARTHA, which was sunk, may recover $43,000 damages.
Buffalo Evening News
Saturday, March 12, 1904