Long Island Sound, CT Steamers NARRAGANSETT and STONINGTON Collide, June 1880
FROM 30 TO 70 LIVES LOST.
The steamers Narragansett and Stonington of the Stonington line collided in a dense fog off the mouth of the Connecticut River at about 11:30 o'clock, Friday night. The former took fire and sank in a few minutes, involving a loss of from thirty to seventy lives.
The Narragansett left her North River pier, at the foot of Jay Street, New York, with over 300 passengers on board, at 5 o'clock Friday afternoon.
The Stonington, also with a full passenger list, did not leave Stonington until four or five hours later.
The two steamers were making the best of their way through the thick fog off Cornfield Point Light, bound in opposite directions, with whistles sounding, when suddenly the lookout on the Stonington saw the light of a large steamer ahead.
The pilot rang the bell to stop his boat, but he was too late. While the vessel was slackening headway, out from the darkness forged her sister boat, the Narragansett, coming at nearly full speed.
A moment of suspense, and the huge floating bulk, filled with its cargo of sleeping humanity, crashed side on to the Stonington, the bow of the latter striking the Narragansett on the starboard side, forward of the wheel, and penetrating half the width of the latter's deck. State-rooms were swept away like egg shells. Tranquil sleepers were hurled from their berths with terrible force. Lights were put out, and the saloons of both boats were filled with horror stricken men and women. Recoiling from the blow, the Stonington fell back twenty feet or more, and then was discovered a great gapping hole in her bow, where the timber and planking had been torn away to below the water line, and for a distance of some fifteen feet on a horizontal line. The vessel took in considerable water, but a hasty examination showed that there was no danger to be apprehended.
The Narragansett fared much worse. Her whole side was crushed in like an egg shell, and the water poured in in floods, and, to make the situation more terrible, flames broke out amidships and spread rapidly. The passengers, most of whom had already retired for the night, startled by the shock of the collision, rushed on deck in their night clothes, and, grasping life preservers, threw themselves into the water. Efforts were made to launch life boats both from the Narragansett and the Stonington, but they were found to be nearly worthless, as the plugs intended to stop the holes provided for rain water escapes had been mislaid and could not be found. Even such of the boats as were in readiness for use had no oars or rowlocks, and the crews were unfit to handle them if they had been all right. The lack of discipline among the officers and crews of both vessels was deplorable.
Fortunately the Sound steamer City of New York, of the Norwich line, bound for New York, came up, and promptly lowered boats, and did noble work in saving the lives of the unfortunate passengers struggling in the water. The Massachusetts, of the Providence line, also came up later, and did good service. It is impossible as yet to fix the responsibility of the disaster, or to state accurately the number of the lost. A list of 213 persons who hare known to be saved has already been made out.
The Narragansett burned nearly to the water's edge and sank in about half an hour after the collision. The City of New York took about 150 of the survivors back to New York, while the Stonington returned to Stonington with the remainder. In the cabin, in the saloon, on the decks of the City of New York, and on the steamboat pier the scenes were of the most heart-rending character. There were women who had lost children; husbands were weeping bitterly, and some of the men who had been in the water for hours had scarcely enough strength left to sit up. Little boys and girls were crying and looking for their parents. Scarcely
a survivor was clad in a complete suit of clothes, and men and women, young and old, were wrapped in blankets or had single articles of apparel, which kind fellow passengers on board the City of New York had loaned them. Many of the passengers left the boat soon after its arrival, and went, clad in blankets, with no shoes and no hats, to buy clothing.
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