The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Sep 1911

Full Text


Although Pilot On River For Fifty Years


Into Sinking Of The Tug Chieftain

Montreal, Sept. 1st - The inquiry into the reason for the collision between the tug Chieftain, of Kingston, and the steamer Hero, which took place in the neighborhood of St. Croix, on August 20th, was continued yesterday in the Wreck Commissioners' Court, Capt. L.A. Demers presiding, assisted by Captains A. Reid and __ Nash, and pilot W. Gauthier, assessors.

The fact that four lives were lost as a result of the collision, made the inquiry all the more important, and the court continued sitting until ten o'clock last evening.

Pilot O. Hamelin, of the Chieftain, admitted that he had no license to trade on the St. Lawrence as a pilot, nor had he ever passed an examination for eyesight, hearing or general knowledge of the rules. However, he had been a navigator for over forty years and had been on all kinds of craft, and according to his statement knows the channel well. He had little knowledge of either a compass or a chart, and, therefore, could not show the court the angles the boats were at when they collided, nor the place where the accident occurred. When asked why he changed his course the pilot explained that, although he was passing the Hero green to green, he came to the conclusion that it would be better to pass her red to red, and accordingly altered his course.

The pilot of the Hero, B. Arcand, said that when he came to the conclusion that the Chieftain was attempting to cross his ship's bow, he immediately signalled the engine room to send the Hero full speed astern and ordered the helmsman to put her hard a starboard and sounded two blasts of the whistle. Immediately the collision took place he ran forward to secure the lifeboats.

Captain Charles Phelix, who had commanded the Chieftain, since 1906, had on board nineteen passengers, although the vessel was not licensed to carry passengers, and claimed that he did not know of a regulation that compelled him to take a Branch Pilot if he took a pilot at all. He was in bed at the time of the accident, but when he heard the crash immediately rushed on deck.

Captain Olsen, of the Hero, stated that he was not on deck at the time of the accident, but rushed out when he heard someone shout "Starboard." Immediately after that the collision took place, and he at once started to lower boats, but saw one of the Chieftain's boats in the water with four men in it. "I gave orders for the ropes to be thrown to the crew of the other boat and in this way, all but four of those that were saved came on board."

When asked why it was he did not remain by the side of the wrecked ship and try to recover the bodies of those drowned, seeing that he was told four persons were missing, the captain replied that he was unable to see anything owing to the steam and darkness.

A.R. Holden is representing the owners of the Hero, while Messrs. A. Geoffrion, Montreal, and Francis King, of Kingston, are looking after the interests of the Chieftain.

p.3 Owing To Low Water - grain carriers will have to lighten here; Keewatin, Eccles; str. Riverside aground in the Sheek Island lagoon.

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1 Sep 1911
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Sep 1911