Milwaukee, WI Whaleback CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS Disaster, June 1917
13 ON SHIP DIE AT DOCK.
WATER TANK FALLS ON CRAFT HEADING AWAY FROM MILWAUKEE.
MORE THAN SCORE ARE HURT.
IMPACT OF VESSEL CRASHING AGAINST PIER CAUSES TANK TO DROP FROM FIVE-STORY BUILDING -- SIX INCHES MORE LEEWAY WOULD HAVE AVOIDED TRAGEDY, SAYS SKIPPER.
Milwaukee, Wis., June 30. -- At least thirteen persons were killed and more than a score others were injured here late this afternoon, when the whaleback steamer Christopher Columbus, in swinging away for her return trip to Chicago, crashed into a dock on the Milwaukee River, causing a huge water tank to fall from the top of the five-story Yahr & Lang warehouse onto the deck of the vessel.
There were said to be approximately 400 passengers on the whaleback, including a number of students from the University of Chicago, who were returning from an outing.
Woman's Bodies Recovered First.
The first bodies recovered were those of women. Later three others were brought in. None of the dead so far has been identified.
The crash of the water tank tore through the bridge, pilot house, two decks and slid into the river when it struck the steel main deck.
The officers of the boat could give no explanation for the tragedy. They said JAMES BRODY, pilot, was at the wheel at the time, and that his wheel failed to respond. An unconfirmed report was to the effect that one of the tugs guiding the big vessel had its hawser cast off too soon.
Put Out In Steam Launch.
The first ones to notice the plight of the passengers were employes of a provision company. They put out in a steam launch and picked up three dead bodies and three more who had been knocked unconscious as they were thrown into the river by the falling tower.
Fire Chief Slaney and Chief of Police Janssen ordered every available man under their command to assist in the work of rescue. Fireboat 15 was called into service to transport the bodies to shore as they were dug from the wreckage by firemen. Taxicabs and passing automobiles were pressed into service to rush the injured to hospitals.
Sailors Aid In Rescue.
John Minola, John Amima and John Candino, sailors, went over the side in a boat shortly after the accident. They rescued two men and a woman. The woman died before she reached the hospital. Among the injured was DAVID COSTLOW, 40 years old, a resident of New Orleans. His skull was fractured.
The dining room was a shambles as the rescuers pushed through chairs and tables and began to take toll of the victims.
One woman, MISS HELEN CRANDALL, had a coat and book torn from her hand by the rush of the falling steel, but otherwise remained uninjured. She said:
"A warning cry from some one caused me to draw back just as the rush of debris came and before I could realize what had happened, the coat over my arm and the book in my hand were torn away from me as if by giant fingers."
Needed Only Six Inches More.
Capt;. MOODY, who was on the bridge at the time of the accident, narrowly escaped death.
"The current was too strong for the tugs," said Captain MOODY. "Six inches more or leeway would have saved the vessel. I was pinned down for a short time after the big water tank fell, but managed to extricate myself and was not seriously injured. The impact with the dock tore away the underpinning holding the lofty tank. The Christopher Columbus will be out of commission the rest of the season as it will require three months to repair the damage."
It was in 1893 that the Christopher Columbus made her initial appearance in fresh water. She was built originally for the sightseeing public in connection with the World's Fair, Chicago.
Among the unidentified bodies was that of a man supposed to be THOMAS H. CREEL, of Parkersburg, W. Va.
The Washington Post District of Columbia 1917-07-01
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