Steamer Larchmont Disaster; February 12, 1907
The paddle wheel steamship Larchmont was built in 1885 in Bath Maine. She was originally named the Cumberland. She was 252 feet long had a 37 foot beam and displaced 1,650gross tons. In 1902 she was purchased by the Joy Steamship Line and re-named Larchmont.
February 11th, 1907the Larchmont left Providence, Rhode Island en-route for New York. A winter storm soon struck which caused high seas and reduced visibility. The Larchmont and the coal schooner Harry P. Knowlton collided in this blizzard. The Larchmont went down within 20 minutes, only three miles from Watch Hill, Rhode Island. According to the New York Times " The schooner came on with a speed that almost seemed to equal the gale that had been pushing her toward Boston. Even before another warning signal could be sounded on the steamer's whistle, the schooner crashed into the port side of the Larchmont." Captain McVey claims he was the last to leave his sinking ship. Other survivors claim the Captain and his crew were in the very first lifeboat, leaving the frantic passengers to fend for themselves. Due mostly to the freezing winter weather over 143 perished.
Block Island, Rhode Island
150 PERISH IN SEA DISASTER
Either Drown or Freeze to Death After Collision
CRASH COMES IN THE DARK
Survivor, Insane from Cold, Commits Suicide
48 BODIES ARE RECOVERED
Either Drown or Freeze to Death After Collision
CRASH COMES IN THE DARK
Survivor, Insane from Cold, Commits Suicide
48 BODIES ARE RECOVERED
Believed Passengers and Crew of Steam Larchmont, Struck by Schooner Harry
Knowlton, Numbered 200, of Which Only 19 Have Been Found Alive - Accident Off Rhode Island Coast - Thinly Clad, Panic-stricken Passengers Rush to Decks - Many of Those Who Take to Lifeboats Are Killed by Zero Weather.
Vessels Blame One Another - Survivors Unable to Tell Detailed Stories - Passenger List in the Pursers' Safe in the Sunken Ship
LARCHMONT DISASTER TOTALS
Estimated dead -------- 150
Saved -------- 19
Bodies recovered -------- 48
Known missing -------- 51
Crew missing -------- 11
Block Island, R. I., Feb 12 - About 150 persons went to their death in Block Island
Sound last night as a result of a collision between the three-masted schooner Harry
Knowlton and the Joy Line steamer Larchmont, inbound from Providence to New York.
It is estimated that, including the crew, there were nearly 200 persons on board the
steamer when she sailed from Providence. Of these only nineteen appear to have survived the disaster, ten members of the crew and nine passengers. Forty-eight bodies have been recovered. Those who survived the accident follow.
Awakened from slumbers in their staterooms, the unfortunate passengers were at the mercy of the fates. Many, it is believed, went down with the ship. Others, temporarily thankful that they had escaped drowning, prayed that they might be relieved of the terrible pain caused by their frozen bodies, and one man, a passenger whose name could not be learned, plunged a knife into his throat, and ended his suffering.
Survivors' Plight Pitiable.
The few who survived were in a pitable [sic] condition. In almost every case their arms and legs hung helplessly as they were lifted out of the boats in which they reached shore.
During the day forty-eight bodies came ashore, either in boats or thrown up by the sea.
Only six of the forty-eight bodies were identified.
An investigation of the wreck will be instituted by the United Etates [sic] steamboat
inspectors of the Providence district.
Passenger List in Safe.
Owing to the condition of the survivors of the tragedy [sic], it was impossible to get their estimate of the loss of life.
The steamship officials estimate that about 150 passengers and a crew of 50 were on
board the steamer when she left Providence last night. Taking the estimated figures of the steamship officials as a basis, there are still 138 persons to be accounted for.
The only positive evidence of the steamer's victims is lying at the bottom of Block Island Sound. The list of passengers and crew, handed to the purser just before the steamer left Providence, was locked in a safe, and it was not recovered.
The cause of the accident has not been satisfactorily explained. It occurred just off Watch Hill about 11 o'clock last night, when the three-masted schooner Harry Knowlton, bound from South Amboy for Boston with a cargo of coal, crashed into the steamer's port side amidships. Capt. George McVey, of the Larchmont, declares that the Knowlton suddenly swerved from her course, luffed up into the wind, and crashed into his vessel.
Capt. Haley, of the Knowlton, asserts that the steamer did not give his vessel sufficient sea room and that the collision occurred before he could atke [sic] his schooner out of the path of the oncoming steamer.
Steamer Sank Quickly.
The steamer, with a huge hole torn in her side, was so seriously damaged that no attempt was make to run for shore, and she sank to the bottom in less than half an hour. The Knowlton, after she had backed away from the wreck, began to fill rapidly, but here crew manned the pumps and kept her afloat until she reached a point off Quenochontaug [sic], where they put out in the lifeboat and rowed ashore. There were no fatalities on the schooner, but the men suffered from the extreme cold.
There was no comparison, however, between their experiences and those of the
passengers and crew of the steamer. A majority of those on the Larchmont had retired for the night, and when the collision occurred there were few on board, with the exception of the crew, who were propared for the weather which prevailed. They hurried from the warm staterooms to the deck of the steamer and into a zero atmosphere.
Cold Killed Thinly Clad.
Literally chilled to the bone, many rushed headlong below to secure more clothing, while [sic] others, barefooted, bare-headed, and clad only in night gowns, stood on the decks, fearing that to go below would mean certain death. It now appears that the loss of life was heaviest among those who had retired for the night. Despite the efforts which were make to leave no one on board, it would appear to be impossible that of the 200 souls on board none were left behind. Those who had no opportunity to clothe themselves succumbed long before they reached shore, and even those who were fortunate enough to be fully dressed endured suffering and frost bites of a serious nature.
Was Sidewheel Steamer.
The Larchmont, a sidewheel steamer, which was only put into the Joy Line service during the present season, left her dock in Providence last night with a heavy cargo of freight and a passenger list estimated at from 150 to 200. A strong northwest wind was blowing as the steamer plowed her way down through the eastern passage of Narragansett Bay, but the full effect of the gale which was blowing out in the sound was not felt until the Larchmont rounded Point Judith. Then the sidewheeler pointed her nose into the very heart of the gale and continued down through Block Island Sound without any unusual incident until she was well abeam of Watch Hill and within five or six miles of Fishers Island.
Capt. George McVey, who had remained in the pilot house until the vessel had been
straightened out on her course, was preparing to retire after a turn around his ship, when he was startled by several blasts of the steamer's whistle. He rushed into the pilot house, where the pilot and quartermaster pointed out a three-masted schooner sailing eastward before a strong wind.
Schooner Headed Straight:
The schooner, which proved to be the Harry Knowlton, coal laden, from South Amboy
for Boston, had been bowling along on her course when she seemed to suddenly luff up and head straight for the steamer. Again several blasts were sounded on the steamer's whistle, the pilot and quartermaster at the same moment whirling the wheel hard-a-port in a mad endeavor to avoid collision.
But as the Larchmont was slowly veering around in response to her helm, the schooner came on with a speed that almost seemed to equal the gale that had been pushing her toward Boston, Even before another warning signal could be sounded on the steamer's whistle, the schooner crashed into the port side of the Larchmont, and the impact of the big vessel was so terriffic [sic] that the big clumsy bow of the sailing craft forced its way more than half the breadth of the Larchmont. When the force of the impact had been spent, the schooner temporarily remained fast in the steamer's side, holding in check for a moment the in-rushing water.
Water Rushes in Hole.
But the pounding sea soon separated the vessels, and as they backed away the water
rushed into the gaping hole in the steamer with a velocity that could only mean the swift doom of the passenger vessel.
There were no water-tight compartments to be closed, and therefore the flood could not be confined to the damaged section, and it poured in over the cargo and down into the hold. As the water struck the boiler room clouds of steam arose and panic-stricken passengers, all of whom had been thrown from their bunks when the collision occcurred [sic], were at first under the impression that a fire had broken out on board.
Unfortunately, the point of collision was in that part of the steamer where was located the signaling apparatus connecting the engineroom with the pilothouse. Capt. McVey, standing in the pilothouse could not communicate with his subordinate officers below decks, and therefore was unable to determine the extent of the damage. The quartermaster was hurried below to make an investigation.
Passengers Rush to Decks.
The passengers meanwhile rushed to the decks. Few of them had waited to clothe
themselves. Their fear was so great that the first penetrating blast of the zero temperature was disregarded, but the suffering from the cold and water soon became so intense that personal was forgotten in a genral [sic] effort to keep the blood in circulation. Those who had not stopped to clothe themselves now found it impossible to return below and do so.
Their rooms were flooded soon after they had been deserted, and the steamer, floundering around in the high seas that are feared by all Sound navigators, was sinking with a repidity that sent terror to the hearts of the officers and crew. Those men were prompt in answering Capt. McVey's call to quarters. While some of the seamen held back the frantic passengers by brute strength, others were proparing to lower the lifeboats and rafts. There was no time to think of the comfort of any one. Even before the boats were cut away, Capt. McVey knew that the list of victims would be greater than those who survived.
There was a physical impossibility for any but the most hardened to withstand the cold, which turned the ears and noses white with the frost, and which so benumbed the feet that both the passengers and members of the crew stumbled rather than walked to the small craft in which they were to leave the sinking ship.
Suffering Ones Cry Out.
Shrieks of agonized pain drowned the roar of the inrushing water. Pandemonium reigned supreme, but in spite of it, the women on board, suffering more intensely than the men, were placed in lifeboats, the male passengers and members of the crew selecting the unprotected rafts as their vehicle of escape.
Capt. McVey remained on the upper deck directing his officers and crew until every one [sic] on board appeared to have been cared for. He ordered all lifeboats and rafts cut away, and before he stepped into his own boat he stood on the upper deck a moment to see that his order was executed. Then he ordered that his boat, the largest on board, be cleared away. Before the men had an opportunity to loosen the tackles, the bottom of the boat rested on top of the surging sea, which was [illegible] over the hurricane deck and for [illegible] it seemed as though the lifeboat would be dragged down, before she could be freed from the doomed steamer.
Every hand on the boat was too cold to handle a knife and cut the ropes, which, however, slipped through the tackles, and set the boat adrift just as the vessel became submerged. The pitiable condition of the passengers and crew was increased a hundredfold the moment they had launched their boats. Every wave sent its dash of spray over the boats and their contents.
Soon a thin coating of ice enveloped every one. Those who were fully clothed suffered from frozen faces and numbed feet, but there were many who had on only their night clothes.
One Man Kills Himself.
One man in the captain's boat, although dressed warmer than many others, was suddenly driven insane by his intense suffering. He pulled a big clasp knife from his pocket and gashed his throat. On one stayed his hand, and again he plunged his knife into his throat. Those who sat near him either were too dazed to interfere or looked up the act of self-destruction as justified. The man's body fell to the bottom of the boat, where it remained unheeded.
Fishers Point, the nearest point of landing, was not quite five miles to the westward of the point where the steamer went down, and every boat immediately headed for that place. But the boats were heavy, and the men at the oars were weak. A fifty-mile gale blew on their backs as the men strained at the ice-covered oars in a hopeless endeavor to overcome the handicap against which they were struggle in. The boats and rafts soon became separated, and the only details of the terrible disaster which could be learned here were given when Capt. McVey's boat came ashore. Not a man on board was able to walk. Their feet were frozen so badly that the life-savers [sic] carried the survivors bodily to the life-saving station.
Ship's Captain Overcome.
Capt. McVey was so overcome by the enormity of the disaster that for a time he was unable to give a lucid account of what had happened after the ship had gone down. Shortly after his arrival here the captain said that he had on board his ship between 150 and 200 passengers and a crew of 50.
Later he said there were between fifty and seventy-five passengers on board the steamer when the vessel went down. The latter figure, however, is far below the estimate made by the officials of the Joy Line at Providence, who estimated that the number of passengers were not less than 150. The exact number of passengers was given in a list which was handed the purser just before the Larchmont started on her fateful journey, but it is believed that it was lost when the ship went down.
Capt. McVey said that had his crew been able to make progress against the northwest gale, they would have landed at Fishers Island between 12 and 1 o'clock. The wind, however, was too strong to be overcome, and there was nothing left for the suffering seamen but turn around and head for Block Island, fifteen miles away. It was shortly after 11 o'clock when the captain of the boat cut away from the sinking steamer, and it was not until 6:30 o'clock in the morning that it arrived at Block Island. It seemed, the captain said, as through the sever hours' struggle against the elements occupied an eternity, and not a soul in the boat expected to survive the excruciating suffering to which they were subjected.
Block Island, Rhode Island
McVey Blames Schooner.
Capt McVey asserted with emphasis that he [sic] crew of the schooner was responsible for the wreck. He said that had the sailing vessel held true to the course which she was sailing when she was sighted, there would have been no possible change of an accident.
"We left Providence at 7 o'clock. A brisk northwest wind was blowing, and we were off Watch Hill at about 11 o'clock. I had gone below to look over the passengers and freight, leaving a good pilot and quartermaster in the pilot house. I returned to the pilot house, passing through there on my way to my room. Everything was O. K. in the pilot house as I stepped into my room and prepared to retire for the night. Suddenly I heard the pilot blowing danger, and I hurried into the pilot house. There was a schooner on the ort and her crew seemed to have lost control of her. Without warning she luffed up and before we had an opportunity to do a thing headed for us. The quartermaster and pilot put the wheel hard aport, but the schooner was sailing along under a heavy breeze, and in a moment she had crashed into our port side, directly opposite the smokestack. I tried to signal to the engineer and mate, but the collision had broken the main steam pipe, filling that part of the boat with steam and cutting off communication with the pilot house.
Ship Filling Rapidly.
"After cutting into our vessel the schooner fell away and disappeared to the leeward. I sent the quartermaster below, and in a few minutes he reported that the ship was filling rapidly. The officers and crew were summoned to their stations, and when I saw the the Larchmont was settling, I ordered all hands to prepare to leave the ship. When I saw that every one was making ready to escape as fast as possible, I went to my boat, which was hanging on the davits, and took into it six of the crew and four passengers. When the steamer had settled almost to the water's edge, we cleared away, after we had make sure that there were no passengers on board who had not been taken care of. After our boat dropped into the water we remained in the immediate vicinity until the steamer sank, and then we pulled away. The boat was a heavy one, and we found it impossible to row to the windward, so we turned to the leeward and started for Block Island. The cold was terrible. We struggled for hours and hours, and the pain from our our frostbitten hands and feet was almost unbearable. One of our men, a seaman, became crazed and committed suicide in the boat by cutting his throat. No one in the boat had strength enough to prevent him from doing it. We arrived here at 6:30 o'clock in the morning, very much exhausted and frozen.
Schooner Blames Steamer
Capt. Frank P. Haley, of the schooner Harry Knowlton, which was in collision with the Larchmont, stated that the accident was entirely due to the steamer. He said that his lights were burning, and he held to his course, with the expectation that the steamer, having sighted him, would pass him with plenty of sea room. When he found that the steamer would not turn out, Capt. Haley said it was too late to avert a collision. Capt. Haley's explanation of the collision follows:
"I never shall quite understand how this accident occurred. The night was dark, but starry, and it was not thick. We left New York yesterday with a cargo of coal, bound for Boston, and were making fair progress through the Sound. A long time before the accident happened we had sighted the Larchmont as steamed steadily to the westward. All her lights were seen. Some of the crew were on deck a while, and we spoke of the picture that the Larchmont made, all lighted up. Then we saw that the steamer seemed to be heading directly for us. I remember that I looked up at our lights, which were burning all right, and, of course, I expected that the steamer would look out for us. But she kept right on.
Warning Was Shouted.
"Some of us shouted a warning and one member of the crew blew a horn constantly. I scarcely knew what to do. I did not dare attempt to tack to clear the part of the steamer, because I thought she would turn out for us. When she was right ahead of us, there was nothing for us to do but hit her. The blow was a very bad one. I thought we were going down at once, as the schooner quivered and then reeled backward, with the bowsprit, the jibboom, and the rigging forward carried away. The water rushed in at once. The steamer lurched badly to starboard when we struck her, and then she continued on her way. She did not seem to be badly damaged."
Capt. Haley then proceeded to narrate the experiences of himself and crew in working his vessel shoreward. With five feet of water in the hold, and gaining, the work of manning the pumps was exceedingly difficult, as the water surged about the men all the time. Finally it was decided to abandon the vessel, and after seizing a few of their personal effects, all hands took to the boat, which was launched. Eventually all reached the shore safely about seven miles below Watch Hill.
The exact moment of the collision is fixed by Capt. Haley as being 10:45 p. m.
Assistance for Sufferers.
As soon as news of the disaster reached the Joy Line officials, immediate steps were taken not only to care for those who had reached shore, but to search the sound for victims of the wreck who might have found it impossible to reach land.
The Scott Wrecking Company of New London, Conn., was requested to send a tug up the sound to search for bodies, lifeboats and rafts, and the Lighthouse Board was requested to dispatch any boats at its disposal on a similar errand. Shortly before noon the Joy Line steamer Kentucky left Fall River for Block Island, and she reached here early in the evening.
The news of the disaster spread across the island with incredible swiftness and two or three hours after daylight nearly every inhabitant was down at the waterside braving the piercing cold and awaiting an opportunity to assist the victims of the shipwreck. Nearly every survivor was in a condition so thoroughly helpless that the rescurers [sic] were unable to keep back the sympathetic tears which filled their eyes. Every victim's face bore signs of terrible and long continued suffering. Scarcely one of them realized when the boat was hauled upon the beach that they had at last reached a harbor of refuge. Many who did realize it seemed not to care, for they still suffered indescribable pain from the arms and legs which hung helplessly as their bodies were borne to near-by cottages.
Haul Bodies from Water.
Even while these helpless sufferers were receiving the tender care of the natives, bodies began to wash ashore from the direction of the sunken steamer. At first there was only one then there were two, and three and four, and soon the natives were as busy hauling the bodies out of the surf as they were succoring those who had stood upon the threshold of death, but has not entered. When darkness settled down over the desolate beach to-night [sic], more than twoscore [sic] bodies had been recovered either from the surf or from the boats which had drifted ashore. Inland lights gleamed in the little cottages far beyond the usual hour, and the suffering passengers and crew who, earlier in the day, had been crowded into the life-saving station were to-night [sic] made as comfortable as possible in the beach-dwellers homes.
The little fishing schooner Elsie put in here to-night [sic], having on board two survivors and one victim of the wreck. The survivors were Samuel Tacunne,residence unknown, and David Fox, of Bridgeton, N. J.
Both men were picked up from a piece of wreckage off shore. The victim was a woman, who was attired in a black skirt, white shirt-waist, with short sleeves. She wore a gold bracelet around each arm, and on her left hand wore two gold rings. At a late hour to-night [sic] the body has not been identified.
The Washington Post, Washington, DC 13 Feb 1907
Names of Living, Dead and Missing
HARRY FELDMAN, Providence.
Mrs. HARRY FELDMAN.
RICHARD HALL, Providence.
DAVIS FOX, Bridgeton, N. J.
SAMUEL L. COMBE, New York.
OFFICERS AND CREW.
Capt. GEORGE W. McVEY, Providence, R. I.
Purser OSCAR A. YOUNG, Providence
Quartermaster JAMES STABLES, Providence.
Fireman JAMES VARN, Providence.
Fireman JOHN LOGAN, Providence
Waiter LOUIS MacFARLAND, Wellington, N. C.
THE IDENTIFIED DEAD.
Steward JAMES B. HARRISON, Brooklyn.
First Assistant Engineer JASPER HEST, Albany, N. Y.
Assistant Engineer EDWARD LOGAN, Providence
First Watchman JACOB ZANDRUS, Paterson, N. J.
Waiter GEORGE SMITH, Providence.
HARRY ECKLES, Block Island.
R. F. PERKINS, Boston
H. HULGREN, Boston
ANTONIO AINETTI, Providence.
-------- RICCARDI. -------
JOSEPH MULLIGAN, Woonsocket.
Rev. PHILIP MURFIO, pastor Italian M. E. Church, Providence.
FRANK L. WILSON, drug clerk, Providence.
HARRY FELDMAN, Providence.
Mrs. HARRY FELDMAN, Providence.
SAMUEL PAUL, Pawtucket, R. I.
Mrs. SAMUEL PAUL, Pawtucket.
PAULINE PAUL, nineteen years.
MATILDA PAUL, fifteen years.
CLAUDE W. LYND, Providence.
FRED H. MOONEY, East Providence.
JOHN LEWIS, Providence.
JOHN CAMPBELL, North Smithfield, R. I.
JACOB BONCE, Providence.
HARRY BONE, Providence.
Miss EMMA BECKLAND, Quinsigamond Corp, Salvation Army, Worcester.
Miss ALMA JOHNSON, Quinsigamond Corp, Salvation Army, Worcester.
Miss ANNA ODEN, Quinsigamond Corp, Salvation Army, Worcester.
EVAN CRITCHELOW, Providence.
STEPHEN E. HEDGES, Providence.
KOREN KORAJUAN, Olneyville, R. I.
ROBERT BIGGARD, Worcester.
CLAUDE E. REED, Providence.
WILLIARD FRANKLIN, North Attleboro.
PROTTO DERECO, Providence.
EMANUEL LYON, New York.
DR. FRANK WILSON, Providence.
BENJAMIN COHEN, Providence
MRS MACKTAZ, a maid, Woonsocket.
EPHRIAM KAPTAN, New York.
MRS. JENNIE SHUGARMAN, Boston
MISS BERTHA SHAIN, Boston.
MORRIS BAIMHOLZ, Boston.
JACOB MICHAILSON, Belmare, N. J.
SAIDE MICHAILSON, Belmare, N. J.
OFFICERS AND CREW
First Mate E. J. HAZARD, Providence.
Chief Engineer ROBERT GAY, Bridgeport.
Pilot GEORGE WYMAN, Taunton
First Assistant Engineer CASTER HESS, Albany
Second Assistant Engineer --- HERRICK, Providence.
Steward J. B. HARRIS, Providence
Porter WOLCHIMIN TCHUKUR, New York.
Waiter GEORGE SMITH, Providence.
Crew, JOHN SCOTT, Providence
Crew, --- OSBORNE, Providence
Stewardness MRS. SCORGAN, Providence
Block Island, Rhode Island
DEATH LIST NOW 138
Bodies of 73 Sound Disaster Victims Recovered.
ALL SURVIVORS INJURED
One Is Insane and Limbs of Some May be Amputated.
Survivor of Larchmont Charges Captain and Crew with Cowardice in Deserting
Ship While Many Helpless Passengers Were on Board - Company's President
Absolves Crew, Praises Their Courage, And Asserts Schooner Was to Blame
Identified dead 38
Unidentified dead and missing 100
Total on board the ship 157
Providence, R. I. Feb 14. - A careful compilation of figures in this city early to-day shows that 138 lives are known to have been lost as a result of the collision Monday night between the Joy Line steamer Larchmont and the schooner Harry Knowlton.
It is known that there were not less than 157 persons on board the steamer. Of that number only nineteen survived. Seventy-tree bodies have been recovered, thirty-eight bodies have been recovered, thirty-eight of them having been identified. There are still 100 passengers who are either missing or unidentified.
Funeral Ship Arrives.
With her flag at half mast, the steamer Kentucky, of the Joy Line, reached this city at 6 o'clock this evening from Block Island, bearing eighteen of the survivors of the steamer Larchmont, which went down in Block Island Sound night before last, and forty-nine bodies of the victims of the disaster. One survivor of the wreck, Miss Sadie Galup, of Boston, was left on Block Island. There was one body left there when the Kentucky sailed from there this afternoon, but later fishing boats brought to the island twenty-two more bodies, making the total list of known dead not stand at seventy-three. Of the total number of persons aboard the steamer it is now almost certain that only nineteen have been saved, and of those only two are women.
All day fishing boats and tugs have scoured Block Island Sound in the hope that a boat or raft might be discovered that might contain some sign of life.
No Survivors Found
They failed to find anything but bodies to bear back to Block Island. Only a few bodies were washed ashore on the island during the day. After the tide turned the natural course for them would have been out to sea. It is therefore doubtful whether many more bodies will be recovered, and in all probability it will never be know how many lost their lives in this disaster.
Terrible tales of suffering were brought here to-night [sic] by some of the survivors, and one of the passengers asserted that in that awful hour of peril helpless women were thrust aside by men who cared only for their own safety. The charge of cowardice was make by Fred Hiergelsee, an eighteen-year-old lad of Brooklyn, N. Y. He said that not only were women left to their fate, but that Capt. McVey left the sinking ship in the very first lifeboat, that some of the ship's employes [sic] filled the boats to the exclusion of the passengers, and that at least one boat was without oars when it was put over the side.
Tells Another Version.
Louis MacFarland, a negro waiter on the Larchmont, gave a version of the departure of the captain's boat which was entirely different from that given by Hiergesell. He said that when re reached the captain's boat, to which he was assigned, he foundCapt McVey there. The captain ordered that the boat be swung outboard, ready to lower, calling to the passengers at the same time to step into the boat The passengers, MacFarland said, seemed afraid to do so, and as the steamer was going down fast, Capt McVey ordered that the boat be lowered. When it reached the water, however, a rope, fastened to the ring bolt and attached to the davit above, became caught, and those in the boat were in danger of being dragged down with the steamer, when Boatswain Andrew Tobesen, who was on the deck, saved their lives by cutting the rope.
Hiergesell's statement was confirmed by other survivors of the terrible tradedy, but, notwithstanding the fact that there was none to corrobarate him, he held steadfastly to his statement.
Official Blames Schooner.
President Dunbaugh issued a statement to-night [sic], in which he said:
"The schooner was responsible for the collision. The officers and crew of theLarchmont are not to blame in any way. In view of the horrible conditions which prevailed immediately after the accident, I am satisfied the men did all in their power to meet the situation as conscientious and honorable men. It appears from my investigation that the schooner luffed right into the Larchmont and caused the accident which resulted in such great loss of life.
"The fact that the steamer sank so soon after the crash; the fact that so many were unable to reach the boats even after they were put out, is, to my mind, sufficient proof that the crew acted bravely and did all it its power to aid the passengers who were able to reach the deck."
Saw Both Sides' Lights.
The story brought in by the Kentucky to-night [sic] was a story of tradedy such as is difficult for the imagination to picture as occurring in a comparatively narrow strait, through which vessels are constantly passing. The light from Block Island and from the Rhode Island mainland were visible when the ship went down, carrying with her many of the passengers undoubtedly. The same light could be seen by the others who had managed to get into the boats, only to succumb in the icy sea.
So quickly did the vessel go down that there was no time for a single signal of distress to be given which might have told the life-savers on both shores of the tragedy that was happening so near to them.
The survivors who reached here told stories of what happened aboard after the ship received her death blow from the schooner, that make the picture even a more terrible one. Men, women, and children, it appears, fought to get up the stairs from the main deck to the hurricane deck, where the boats and rafts were. Some had to give it up, apparently. One of the survivors, failing to get up by the stairway, where men were fighting for their lives, succeeded in climbing through a port hole and up on the outside of the steamer. How many failed to get up the stairs and reach the deck before the ship went down will never be known. All of the stories agree that the boat sank not more than ten minutes after the collision. This was about six minutes after the captain's boat had left the ship.
Went Down Stern First
According to Purser Young, who was on this boat, the ship seemed to go down stern first. As her light disappeared beneath the waves, those in the boat heard heart-rending cries coming from her that told of the awful struggle for life that was going on. They saw no other boats, though a few apparently got away from the steamer, only to be swallowed up in the sea that was running.
Of the nineteen survivors, eight, including the two women, were rescued from a piece of the hurrican deck that floated away when the ship sank.
Thirty-five were on this piece of the deck when it floated away. Seven persons were alive and the body of another was found on it when the fishing schooner came alongside just before noon yesterday. Seven men landed on the island from the captain's boat, three reached shore in a second one, a boy swam ashore from a boat that went down half a mile from the island, and another picked up on a raft some distance out.
Two Improvised Morgues.
Block Island's two life-saving stations, one at Sandy Point and the other at New Shoreham, were turned into morgues and hospitals during the night, and the dead crowded the living. The boatroom floors were lined with the dead, each one frozen as stiff as the boards on which -t rested. In the living and sleeping rooms the suffering survivors rested on cots and beds, racked with the pain of frozen limbs and shuddering with the recollection of the horror of their experiences. Many were denied the merciful unconsciousness of sleep, and throughout the long, dreary night they tossed and cried and sobbed, and the howling wind outside only served to keep fresh in their minds the terrors of the storm through which they had fought their way to the island. It is feared that none of those survivors will remain unscathed. The frost penetrated too deeply to be overcome by medical treatment and the surgeon's knife will be the only salvation of some of the unfortunates. Some will lose fingers, some hands, and it is feared some will be obliged to have limbs amputated.
An enormous crowd had gathered at the Fox Point wharf when the funeral ship was sighted coming up the river late this afternoon. Ambulances from the two hospitals were waiting at the dock for the survivors and several patrol wagons were read to receive the corpses. The police were forced to rope off the pier and allowed only a few to go down to the ship. Waiting at the lines were a crowd of weeping men and women. In the crowd was a group of the members of the Salvation Army. They had come to see if they could find among the bodies any of their comrades who sailed for New York on the ship the night before last. They seemed overcome with grief. None of the bodies were in coffins. As soon as they had been placed in coffins they were hurried to Monahan's morgue.
Ice Covered All Bodies.
All of the bodies were frozen stiff and incrusted with ice. In many cases the arms were raised as if the ice had incased them while they were in the very act of fighting the fate that was in store for them. Of the bodies which had been recovered when the Kentucky left, only five were women. There were no children, though there were some aboard the vessel.
It took some time to prepare the bodies, and the work of identification at the morgue did not begin until late this evening.
Providence had been filled all day with relatives of the missing ones The reason for the delay in the Kentucky reaching here was due to the difficulty in getting the survivors and the bodies on board of her at the island. She could not get very near the shore owing to the ice, and consequently the bodies had to be taken out to her in small boats, as did the survivors. They had been landed fie miles from where the boat lay and had to brought the five miles in wagons.
Refuses to Go on Ship.
Sadie Galup, who lives in Boston, refused to allow herself to be taken aboard theKentucky, though she was urged to do so in order that she could get proper treatment at a hospital here. She is threatened with pneumonia, and is also frost-bitten. She is almost crazed from her experiences and at the idea of going on another boat she became delirous [sic].
The experiences of Miss Galup and those on the part of the hurricane deck that floated off when the ship went down were related by Mrs. Harris Feldman, the other woman on this makeshift raft, who was saved with her husband, both being from New York, and by David Fox, of Bridgeton, N. J.
The Feldmans were in a stateroom on the saloon deck when the crash came and fought their way upstairs to the hurricane deck where the boats were. Feldman put his wife in a boat, but many had crowded into this boat and he found he could not get aboard himself. He is a big man and an old Black Sea sailor. Seeing that he and his wife were liable to be separated, he pulled her out of the boat just as the ship began to settle and the water had risen to the deck. They grabbed on to the deck and suddenly there was a grinding noise and they found themselves floating on an improvised raft made up of about half the deck.
Three Rescued; One Dies
Two women and a man were found in the water a minute later clinging to the raft. They were hauled aboard, but died almost immediately. Their bodies froze at once and were washed overboard. One after another the others on the craft gave up the fight for life in the cold and died, an? The swirling seas quickly took their bodies overboard.
If it had not been for Feldman, the two women would have died. "All night long," said Mr. Feldman, "my husband kept beating the other woman and myself to keep the life in our bodies. The he would seize us and make us walk up and down holding on to him. There was never a moment that he gave it up. Most of the others were stiff and sat down to die, but my husband would not give it up. He told me that I must keep alive. Miss Galup could not keep walking, and finally fell down and lay between two dead men on the raft. We could not get her up, but my husband kept beating her all over her body. The waves swept over us constantly, and we were covered with ice. Some of the people prayed. We could see the lights all the time, but not a single boat. We shouted, but there was no answer. All we could do was to pray. Finally, when we had almost given it up, we saw the fishing boat and knew that we were safe."
When taken aboard the fishing boat, the clothes of the women were frozen to their bodies, but Feldman, the Black Sea sailor, had kept the blood moving in them and had saved their lives.
He Prayed on Raft.
David Fox, of Bridgeton, J. J., worked with Feldman through the night in this heroic task. He is a big man, too. He was on his way home from attending a Bible conference. His stateroom was stove in by the schooner. He was the man who gave up the fight to get up the stairs and with the water rushing to the cabin, through a hole that was as big as a hogshead, he says he managed to crawl through a porthole to the deck. Fox said that through the night he kept walking on the little raft and helped some of the weaker ones to do likewise. He prayed out loud that help might come, and he tried to keep the courage of the others up. Those rescued from this raft said they owed to lives to the Black Sea sailor and the Bible student.
An experience almost as harrowing as that of the little company on this raft was that of sixteen-year-old Fred Heigersell, the only boy that was saved. He had run away from home, he said. He reached the hurricane deck and got into a boat with four other men. They did not get the boat free from the Larchmont until she went down. Then all five in the boat tried to row, but they had little success. Still they kept her headed for the lights on the island.
Boy Swam to Shore.
Just before they reached the island a wave upset the boat. Hiegersell started to swim to the lighthouse. He says he looked around and the four had disappeared. He says he swam for fifteen minutes and finally his feet struck bottom. He saw a light in a house, and he had just strength enough to tap on the window. The people in the house heard it and found him unconscious under the window.
The most complete story of the wreck is told by Purser Young. He said he was in his office when the two ships together. He rushed out in the cabin to find what was the matter and was almost blinded at once by the steam.
"I met the steward." Said Young, 'and he told me that the steam pipe had burst. The people were pouring out into the cabin in their night clothes. I shouted for every one to get up to the hurricane deck where the boats were. I could hear others of the crew shouting the same orders.
Every Man at His Post.
"When I reached that deck I saw members of the crew at the different boats. I am positive that every man was at his proper station and that they did everything they could to care for the passengers.
"My place under the rules was in the captain's boat, which was up near the bow. I found the captain directing the launching of this boat. Nearly all of the passengers seemed to be at the stern. There were only four boats there. The ship was going down fast. Our boat would have held ten persons. We got seven in her. The reason why only two of these were passengers was because there were no passengers where we were. We took all that were near us and tried to get back for more, but there was not any time left. The steamer had eight life boats and four rafts. I don't think these were enought [sic] for the people, but I'm not certain of that.
"It was about six minutes after we launched our boat that the Larchmont sank. She seemed to settle by the stern. We saw the light disappear as she went down and heard cries from the ship. Then we looked around for other boats. Several times we thought we saw a boat and rowed toward it, but each time it turned out to be a wave. It was trying to row against Niagara [sic]. We drifted to the island.
Defends Capt. McVey
"Capt. McVay did all a man could have done, I think, for his passengers, and stayed on the ship as long as was possible."
The two passengers that were in the captain's boat seemed to have been the only ones who were saved with any of the crew. The other survivors do not know what the crew did, except to tell them to get on the hurricane deck. From the fact that most of the crew are missing and undoubtedly dead, it is believed that they did attempt to rescue passengers and get the boats launched; but if they did so, those that they tried to save appear to have died with them.
The twenty-two additional bodies that were taken to Block Island after the Kentucky left were found by four fishing vessels. They arrived at the island with their flags at half mast, denoting they had dead aboard. Most of the bodies has been found floating north of the island.
Life preservers were found strapped to some of these bodies. These are the first prson [sic] to be found with any life preservers, but apparently very few stopped to put them on in their rush to reach the upper deck. The bodies brought in this afternoon were like cakes of ice. Some of the dead had their hands in the pockets of their coats.
Her Hands Frozen to Ears.
One woman was found with her hands up to her ears. She had frozen stiff in that position. The fishermen reported that the sound was strewn with the wreckage from the steamer.
Antonio Riezukiewitz, of Central Falls, R. I., entered a life boat with eight other passengers, all men. The boat had scarcely touched the water when it turned partially over, throwing all the occupants into the water. All but Riezukiewitz seemed to have been frozen to death almost as soon as they were immersed, for he was unable to find a trace of them when he came to the surface.
Riezukiewitz swam to the boat and climbed in. He said he did not remember how he was saved. He fell out of the boat twice, but each time clambered back. Finally he dropped into the water in the bottom of the boat and lost consciousness. When he awoke he was at Block Island. He is not partly insane as a result of his experience. During the trip from Block Island he created a scene by charging the officers of the steamer with an attempt to starve his to death. He was removed to the East Side Hospital, Providence, in a critical condition.