The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Rudolph Wetzel (Tug), U21944, boiler explosion, 28 Oct 1882

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The tug WETZEL blew up Saturday morning 12 miles north of Racine, Wisconsin while racing with the tug SILL for a tow. The vessel was completely dismasted. Three were killed by the explosion which was so powerful that neither of the bodies have been found.
      Port Huron Daily Times
      Monday, October 30, 1882

Capt. Putnam of the tug Sill, which was racing with the Weitzel when she exploded, makes the following statement: We were running down the lake off Oak Creek, having left Racine about 6 o'clock. We were under good head way, and the Sill was about two feet from the Weitzel. I noticed the fireman tell the engineer something and then he ran to Frank Lowell, who was at the wheel. Then he ran back and put his head into the window, as if to try the water. The fireman had gone down to the furnace and was putting in coal, for we could see the black smoke coming out of the stack. The engineer then went to the engine room, and as he entered we could see his hand already shaped as if to take hold of the water valve. Then, in an instant, there was a loud explosion and we were fairly lifted from the water and covered with dust and cinders from the Weitzel. A large piece of boiler struck the Sill's fireman, Dennis Hanley, and injured him considerably. We were all covered with coal from head to foot. The glass in the pilot house was broken, and something heavy went through the aft hatch. We were covered with dust from stem to stern. Part of the entrails of one of the Weitzel's crew were thrown on our deck. The names of those on the Weitzel were Frank Lowell, owner and master; Bill Kelley, engineer, lately engaged; and Thomas White. We cruised around there for over and hour and a half, but could find no trace of either of the crew.
      Detroit Post and Tribune
      October 31, 1882

      TOTAL LOSSES, 1882
      [Inter Ocean Casualty List]
Oct. 28. -- Tug WETZEL, by exploding her boiler off Racine. Three lived lost.
      J.W. Hall Great Lakes Marine Scrapbook, December, 1882

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: boiler explosion
Lives: 3
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Wisconsin, United States
    Latitude: 42.72613 Longitude: -87.78285
William R. McNeil
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Rudolph Wetzel (Tug), U21944, boiler explosion, 28 Oct 1882