The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 13 May 1853

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p.2 Investigation into the Circumstances of the Burning of the Steamer Ocean Wave Coroner's Inquest upon the Body of One of the Sufferers

On the 3rd instant, Dr. Barker, one of the Coroners for the city, held an Inquest at the City Hospital to examine into the death of John Balton, one of the sufferers by the burning of the Ocean Wave steamer. The following are the names of the Jury:-

William Robinson, Foreman.

Edward McManus Charles Robinson,

John O'Conner, Thomas Wade,

Samuel Barton, John Wright,

Thomas Mulholland, George Smith,

Henry Dunbar, John McCarty,

John Moses, James Cullen,

Jeremiah Conner, Patrick Cullen.

Only two or three witnesses being in attendance, after their examination the Coroner adjourned the Inquest till the Thursday following, when it met again and other three witnesses were examined, but this evidence not being satisfactory, the Inquest was still further adjourned until Wednesday evening last, the 11th instant, and immediately adopted measures to procure the attendance of all persons who could throw any light upon the matter. On Wednesday evening, at 7 o'clock, the Inquest, pursuant to adjournment, assembled at the Council Chamber, City Hall, all the members of the Jury being present with the exception of two, and a large number of witnesses, including the Captain and Purser of the unfortunate vessel, and several others sent up at the request of the Coroner by the steamboat company to whom the vessel belonged. The following is the evidence adduced before the Coroner, and from its somewhat contradictory character it would lead one to infer that there was some misunderstanding as to the substance of what took place between the Captain of the steamer Scotland and Capt. Belyea, of the schooner Emblem. We leave our readers to judge for themselves.

City Hospital, May 3rd, 1853.

William Robinson sworn - The deceased (John Balton) was brought to the hospital on the 30th April last, about 6 o'clock; was in a very low condition; was immediately put to bed, and received medical treatment from Dr. Harvey; he died last evening at 8 o'clock; he told witness, at a time when he knew that he would die, that he had been two hours in a state of suffocation between smoke and fire, and said nothing else touched the cause of his illness.

George Smith sworn - Attended deceased after his admission into the hospital; witness thought that deceased knew he was about to die, for he said so; but he did not say anything about the cause of his illness.

Inquest adjourned, to meet again in the same place on Thursday evening, 5th inst.

City Hospital, May 5th, 1853

John Alexander sworn - Is Surgeon of the General Hospital; saw the deceased at half-past 7 o'clock on Saturday evening; he appeared to be suffering from acute inflammation of both lungs; when he saw him he was nearly insensible; on Monday morning he rallied very much; he said that he had been sitting on the wreck of the steamer Ocean Wave inhaling smoke and steam, and he also called out till nearly exhausted; witness inferred that he meant on the night of the accident; deceased stated that previous to this occasion he had suffered from an old chronic affection of the chest; witness has no doubt that the disease, and consequent death of deceased, were caused by the inhalingof steam and smoke.

Henry Wilson sworn - Is mate of the steamer Scotland, George Patterson Master, left the port of Kingston on Friday evening, at twenty minutes after 12 a.m. Saturday morning the 30th of April, bound for Hamilton. When eight miles to the westward of Nine Mile Point, saw ahead of the Ducks light, a light which he could not account for, also the lights of the steamer Magnet coming down; this was as near as he could recollect about half-past one o'clock; had gone about eight or nine miles on their course and made the strange light out to be a fire, but supposed it to be a light on shore, as it was inside the Ducks. Witness remarked to the Purser, that it was strange and could not account for it. About four o'clock made it out to be a burning vessel, by the aid of a telescope, he should judge they were eight or nine miles from it then. When they made the discovery of its being a vessel on fire, they bore down for it and at half-past five got abreast of it; came within 30 yards of her, she was nearly burnt to the water's edge; thinks the sun was risen at this time, it was a fine clear bright morning; discovered no body on the wreck, examined it closely and thinks it was a moral impossibility for any person to be on it without their seeing them. They searched round the wreck to see if any person or objects were floating about but saw none. The burning vessel was between five and six miles from shore, but neither he nor any on board could discover any object between them and the shore; there were three vessels in sight; one on the larboard quarter of the wreck, about a quarter of a mile distant, another on the starboard beam about a third of a mile and the third was about four miles distant, bearing N.N. East, apparently approaching; the name of the vessel on the larboard quarter the witness could not make out, the one on the starboard beam was the Emblem, she was hove to under her mainsail and jib; when the Scotland approached her she hoisted her flying jib and fore-sail, and headed towards Kingston. There was a fine wholesale breeze blowing, with smooth water, which would carry her six or seven miles an hour, it was a fair wind, North North-west; when they saw the Emblem fill away for Kingston, the Scotland immediately followed her. It was about a quarter of an hour till they overtook her; witness hailed her himself by direction of Captain Patterson; asked them the name of the burning vessel, the reply by someone on board was "The Ocean Wave," then asked what time she took fire, the reply was "half-past two o'clock." Witness next asked "where are the passengers," answer from the Emblem "part of them are on board of us." "Do you want any help" witness next asked, to which no reply was returned; witness called loud enough to be heard. The vessels were very close together; saw no one on deck except those he supposed to be the crew. When witness asked them if they wanted any assistance, the person who had previously responded, turned away and walked forward, making no reply. This took place half or three-quarters of a mile from the wreck, but witness could not be certain as he was considerably agitated by the accident. When witness and those on the Scotland saw the person turn his back they naturally thought those on board the Emblem did not require their assistance. They then reversed their engine, returned and went along-side the wreck again, which had not yet sunk; when the Scotland got a short distance from it on its course to Toronto the wreck sunk, this was about six o'clock. It was impossible for any person to be about the wreck or floating in the water, without witness and those on board seeing them. Captain Patterson expressed the greatest anxiety regarding the safety of the persons on board the Ocean Wave. Witness was the person who hailed the Emblem. Witness denies that any person on board the Emblem told him that there were persons floating in the water between the wreck and the shore, witness took a survey of the lake with his glass. Did not see any fishing boat between the wreck and the shore; the strange lights which witness could not understand must have been the burning vessel; when witness first discovered it, thinks it must have been about twenty-four miles off. The Scotland sails about seven miles an hour; the Magnet bound for Kingston, passed the Scotland at five minutes past three o'clock; the fire was then visible from the deck of the Scotland, and must have been visible from the deck of the Magnet. The reason that he did not volunteer to take the passengers to Kingston was, that it was their impression on board the Scotland, that those on board the Emblem did not wish them to interfere, and the water being smooth, and the wind fair, there could be no danger of their getting quickly into Kingston.

By a Juror - Magnet must have passed the Ocean Wave very near, and if she was not on fire when she passed her, she must have taken fire very shortly after. The person who hailed him from the Emblem was one and the same person throughout. When witness first saw the Emblem she was hoisting her boat up.

Jas. O'Reilly Esq. sworn - Witness proved the disposition made before him as magistrate, by the officers and crew of the steamer Scotland which was read. It has been already published in this paper.

Lydia Wilson sworn - is the last witness, Mr. Wilson the mate of the Scotland, was on board the Scotland at the time the Ocean Wave was burnt; witness was called up by her husband to view the burning vessel, the Scotland went so near to it, that they could feel the heat on deck. The Ocean Wave was burnt to the water's edge; the Scotland followed the Emblem and came close up with her, the Emblem was steering for Kingston. Witness heard her husband call to the Emblem "what vessel is it that is burning" and heard the answer returned "it is the Ocean Wave." Her husband again asked "where are the passengers," and received for answer, that part of them were on board of the Emblem; he next asked if they required any assistance and nobody would answer him. Witness was close to her husband at this time; the man on board the Emblem instead of answering, walked forward. Witness did not hear the person on board the Emblem say anything about persons floating between the wreck and the shore, he did not answer the last question put by her husband. When they received no reply, Captain Patterson thought that they were all right and that none were injured, consequently he did not like to interfere further. The morning was fine and the water smooth.

The Inquest was then adjourned to the 11th of May at the City Hall.

City Hall, May 11th, 1853

John Cousins, Purser, sworn - Is Purser on the steamer Scotland.

-Arrest of Suspected Murderers - sailors fight over religion. [Leader]

-The Burning of the Ocean Wave - city appointed committee to look into the affair.

-Imports - 11 12; Exports - 12.

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13 May 1853
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 13 May 1853