The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Weekly British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Jun 1894

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The Collision Occurred On Thursday Morning.

Rockport, June 7th - The tug Seymour with a tow of four barges met the prop. Ocean at Sister light, bound up, at two o'clock. The tug blew two whistles which were answered by the Ocean in the same manner. She passed the tug and three barges successfully, but the fourth was heading directly across the river. Seeing this the pilot of the Ocean put his helm hard a-starboard preferring to beach her than to have a collision, but the Ocean was already too close to the shoal, and the barge's port bow and stem cut into the Ocean's starboard bow, imprisoning the men in the forecastle, two of whom were drowned. The Ocean sank in four minutes in ten feet of water forward and thirty aft, but is resting easy. The barge also sank.

Interview In Kingston.

The passengers had a lively experience on the prop. Ocean. There were about eight passengers on board: Alfred Walford and bride, Mr. Winter and bride, C.J. Harrower, Montreal; Mr. Lahoric, Quebec; Mrs. Cummings, Chicago, and A.A. Stewart, Toronto.

The newly married couples will remember the accident. They were forced to escape partly clothed and had to borrow garments from more fortunate passengers to make up deficiencies.

In an interview with Mr. Walford, this afternoon, he said: "The accident happened about two o'clock in the morning. We were awakened by the shock, which threw some of us out of our beds. Glass was smashed in the windows and the doors were jammed so tight we had great difficulty in opening them, and for a time we felt as if we could not escape death. By great efforts we opened the door and got free. When we got on deck we saw nothing alarming, but an officer met us and told us to dress quickly as there was danger of being lost.

"We were hurried to the hurricane deck, lowered into a life boat, and removed to the Sister Islands, where we were kindly entertained by W.O. Dodge, keeper of the light house. All this time we did not know what had happened exactly. We thought there was an accident, but what the nature of it was a mystery. When we arrived on the island we learned that the last of four barges of a tow, owned by the Ogdensburg coal towing company, had run into the starboard bow of the Ocean and stove a hole in her so large that a car could pass through."

One old man, Isaac Lee, who is engaged in a malt house in Quebec, and is taking a pleasure trip to Hamilton, was sleeping in room No. 9 and was tossed from his bunk when the collision occurred. His presence of mind did not fail him, and snatching up his clothes he hurried out on deck where the hands were busy lowering the boats. He had time to grab his portmanteau, but thinks that less than a minute elapsed after the collision till the steamer was beached. He and another young man were the only ones lucky enough to get all their baggage.

The passengers stopped with the light house keeper till morning, and breakfasted there. A collection was then taken up, and a nice little sum given the man for his kindness.

Moveables Brought To Kingston.

On Friday the crew, wreckers and plant of the Donnelly wrecking and salvage company came back from the Ocean on the str. Pierrepont. Capt. Malcolmson remained in charge of the boat.

The members of the crew who arrived here, and after supper at the Anglo-American hotel, left for their homes are: first mate, J. Tupont, Montreal; second mate, J. Grant, Hamilton; wheelmen, Signold DeBellefeuille, Joseph Cushion; engineers, J. Harrington and G. Belanger; steward, F. McKenzie; purser, W.G. Malone, Kingston; watchman, J. Collins, Kingston; fireman, C. Pulkingham, Hamilton; F. Goodwin, Collingwood.

The wreckers removed all the movable material from the Ocean, including furniture and other articles, to the steamer, and these goods will be stored here, in the meantime. A diver examined the situation of the Ocean, and could not tell whether rocks were sticking through her bottom. She is in bad shape; all the timbers are strained and out of place and there is a very large hole in the bow, made by the collision with the barge Kent.

The names of the men who were killed by the collision while asleep in the forecastle are: W. Thorn, Montreal and M. Champagne, whose residence is not known. The body of Champagne was found under water in the forecastle. It was taken to Sister Island to await instructions from the coroner. The body of Thorn was not recovered. It is supposed to have been carried down the river.

F. McKenzie, the steward, escaped without clothes, but got them afterwards. Just as the boat was sinking he started back in search of the girls on the boat. He was seen by Capt. Malcolmson and called in time to escape from going down with the boat. The girls were rescued.

Capt. Geddes' Remarks.

In an interview, Capt. Geddes, Toronto, part owner, stated that the cost of raising the boat would amount to anywhere between $6,000 and $10,000. He explained that the steamer was in very bad shape, and in his opinion could only be raised by pontoons. The steamer was abandoned by the owners and left in the hands of the insurance companies, which have her insured for three-quarters of her value and also the cargo. The British American company is interested in the hull and the Western in the cargo. Capt. S. Crangle represents both companies. From investigations made at the wreck, Mr. Geddes was assured that the accident was due entirely to the shear of the barge Kent. Capt. Malcolmson thinks there was no man at the wheel of the barge, and if there was he must have been asleep and did not know of the Ocean's approach. According to marine law the barge was responsible, but as there is nothing of it left worth claiming damages against the steamer will not be able to get anything from this source. The barge is a total wreck. It is a question if the owners will trouble to raise her, as it would cost more to put her in shape than she would be worth. Mr. Geddes looks upon the accident as pretty tough luck. Over $8,000 was laid out on the steamer in rebuilding her last winter, and now if $10,000 more is required to put her on her route again the owners will have to stand $2,500 of it. Besides this he considers it will take at least a month before the boat can take her route. This will be a heavy loss in itself. It was fortunate for the passengers and crew that the accident occurred where it did. A little further down and all hands might have been lost.

Notes Of The Wreck.

The Ocean is owned by four gentlemen: Capt. Malcolmson, Mr. Jaques, Montreal; Mr. McKay, Hamilton; Mr. Geddes, Toronto.

The barge Kent was formerly a Canadian propeller known as the East. In 1874 she ran into and sank the Ogdensburg tug Joe Mack. She was seized by the United States marshall as the result of this collision and sold at sheriff's sale. She was purchased by an Ogdensburg firm and turned into a freight barge.

The Ocean had an extensive cargo. There are 400 barrels of cement; 100 gross tons of wire, 100 barrels of sugar and a quantity of rice. In all there are 290 tons of goods in her hold.

Mr. Collins, sleeping in the forecastle at the time of the collision, said he escaped death by being in an out-of-the-way bunk. He had not time to get his clothes and escaped without them. The first engineer says he had only time to stop the engine and get his coat before the boat went down.

One of the lady members of the Ocean's crew said last evening that there was a great deal of excitement on board the propellor after the collision. On being told of the accident one of the brides became so appalled that she went out of her mind for a time. She would not dress herself and she would not leave the cabin. The women on the boat had to force the excited girl into submission and put her clothes on. Then she had to be pulled away from the cabin. After she got ashore she wanted her husband to go back to the sinking boat and rescue a piece of music.

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14 Jun 1894
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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.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Weekly British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Jun 1894