Chicago, IL Eastland Disaster, Jul 1915 - Death List Over 1500, part 2
The rescue work was greatly retarded, despite the quick response from every boat that was near by, because of the panic. Every available pulmotor was rushed to the scene, but through lack of them many persons died on the docks after being brought ashore. Eye witnesses corroborated the story told by Edward Schaack, a commission merchant, and F. W. Willard, a passenger on the Eastland. Schaack was some yards from the dock when the boat went over. He commandeered a large row boat and paddled to mid-stream. He dragged Willard from the water, and with him climbed to the boat’s upturned side. The two drew ninety passengers from below decks through a port hole.
Peter Horwick, a musician went overboard with his violin when the boat tipped. An unknown woman struggled in the water, hanging to the violin when Horwich came up. He managed to swim with the woman to shore.
Caspar Lahnd was a passenger with his wife, his son Caspar, 8, and his daughter, Cecilia, 12. All were separated when the outer rail went under. Swimming about, Lahnd picked up his daughter and took her safely to shore within a foot of where his wife had landed. The boy is missing.
The tragedy struck Chicago with a blow like that of the Iroquois theater disaster. Even after private automobiles had augmented police patrols and ambulances there were not enough vehicles to take the dead and dying to hospitals. All the State street stores eliminated their delivery services and rushed their auto trucks and horse-drawn wagons to and from the police department.
Police from outlying districts were called in as well as traffic policemen to aid. As a result the normally jammed loop district thoroughfares were well nigh impassable. Street car motormen had no one to tell when to cross busy corners. At some crossings impassable masses of wagons, autos and street cars locked those streets for many minutes at a time. The excursion was the annual picnic given the Western Electric employees by the firm. Nineteen thousand were on the Eastland and five other boats chartered by the company to take the men, women and children to the grounds at Michigan city for the holiday play.
The excursion was cancelled and the other boats disgorged their passengers, some of whom had relatives or close friends on the boat that wend under. It was because of this scattering of the employes [sic] that it was almost impossible at first for frantic officials to get any list of those who were aboard the Eastland.
According to Ross H. Geeting, a commission salesman, who was a passenger, the panic as the boat went under was indescribable. Anna Golnick, who saved herself by hanging to two chairs, corroborated Geeting’s statement that women carrying babies were beaten down and trampled by men in the wild rush from the under-decks. “The boat swung several times unsteadily.” Said Geeting. “before the final dip. It was at that last terrible lurch that everyone at once seemed to grasp what was happening. The screaming and panic was frightful. Many women had almost all of their clothing torn off before they could get to the rail or a porthole to jump.
There were also terrible scenes enacted about the stanchions and every stable upright upon the upper deck as men and women fought to get hold. Even after the boat settled on her side there was struggling on the slippery upturned side plates. There must have been at least fifteen or twenty of all sexes and ages who were literally pushed off to their deaths who might have been saved if they had heeded the calls from Captain Pedersen and other ship’s officers to remain quiet.
At St. Luke’s hospital, Miss B. Ritzhack, of Brokfield, Ill., hour after hour begged physicians to let her go in search for her husband and four children, all babies. Mrs. Ritzhack was found floating unconscious near the bank. It was feared the husband and children were drowned, but officials feared the effect of the shock and told the woman they had been accounted for.
Blames New Seamen’s Law.
DETROIT, Mich, July 24—That the new seamen’s labor law enacted at the last session of congress was responsible at least in part for the Eastland horror in Chicago today is the contention of A. A. Schants, general manager of the Detroit & Cleveland Transportation company.
“From what I have learned of the accident I am convinced that it was due in part at least, to the presence of life rafts and other heavy equipment required by the seamen’s law.”
Schantz said. “When the bill was before congress we argued that some such accident was likely to occur, but they laughed at us. The boat was simply top-heavy and turned turtle—and accident that couldn’t have occurred had she been properly trimmed.
Pitiful scenes wracked the hearts of workers in the big Ried-Murdock warehouse and salesroom at the foot of Clark Street. The officials of the company literally took their doors off their hinges and permitted establishments of a morgue there.
The bodies were piled in long rows along the floor and all who claimed to have relatives or friend missing were permitted to pass by.
Many of these had been rescued and wore clothes donated by clerks and workers in the district, their having been torn off in the panic and mad fight for life.
Some of the rescued were badly injured. Many during the early hours just after the disaster wandered all the way up into the loop district with clothing torn and heads and arms bleeding. One man was picked up in a dazed condition a half mile from the dock. There was a jagged wound in his forehead. He could not tell his name. He was removed to the Iroquois hospital.
Joseph A. Forrester, who holds a Mississippi river master and pilot’s license, declared the Eastland never should have been used for passenger service.
Forrester, who is visiting here and was early on the scene, continued: “There were not enough holds below the water line. The Eastland was built too high. When she started listing nothing on God’s earth could stop her, because there was more above water than below, which is contrary to all ideas of boat construction.
Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, In 24 Jul 1915