"Searching Enquiry"
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from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 14 Jan 1904, pg.8

Ordered to Take Place by the United States Inspectors

Captains Collister and Thompson, of this city, inspectors of hulls and of boilers, have been invited here to attend an inquiry into the 'Clallam' disaster to be held at Seattle, commencing on Monday. The following letter has been sent to the local inspectors at Seattle by Capt. John Birmingham, the United States supervising inspector of steam vessels, regarding the 'Clallam'.

"Messrs. Whitney and Turner, United States Local Inspectors of Steam Vessels, Seattle, Wash.

Sirs: In view of the recent disaster which carried to the bottom the steamer 'Clallam' and drowned, as reported, fifty-four of her passengers, it behooves you to examine very closely the condition of all steam vessels plying in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

"From the news we get it appears that the 'Clallam' disaster was brought about by the giving way of a deadlight, possibly a shutter having a deadlight in it in her side, above her main deck. Be that as it may, her loss indicates that none but the staunchest vessels should be employed in those waters. The public, as well as the government, naturally look to you for a searching investigation in the case of the 'Clallam', which it appears was only six months old."

"British Columbia, and especially Victoria, so many of whose residents were victims, is directly concerned in the investigation," says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "The 'Clallam' carried the official approval as to her safety and seaworthiness, not only of the local marine inspectors but those of Victoria and British Columbia as well. There has been much adverse criticism emanating from the British Columbia press, some of the papers going as far as to openly censure both boards of inspectors and the officers and owners of the 'Clallam'.

Discussing the inquiry, Capt. Whitney said yesterday: "It begins Monday, and will be searching. Everybody who knows anything about the terrible disaster will be given an opportunity to testify. We cannot compel passengers to testify, but I request all survivors to come forward and tell what they know.

"As to the officers, we have the right to subpoena them and compel their attendance, but such a course will not have to be pursued. The officers and crew, so far as we know, are all willing to come forward and tell what they know.

"The law gives us the authority to subpoena any licensed officer, no matter whether he was on the 'Clallam' or with some other craft.

"We were not able to fix the date of the investigation until today. Some of the principal witnesses hastened to their homes in other cities and nearby towns as soon as they arrived here, and these must be given time to return and testify.

"Our board is especially anxious to have Captains Collister and Thompson, the British Columbia marine inspectors, attend, as they also inspected and passed the 'Clallam' as a perfectly seaworthy boat. They are directly interested, and we propose to give them an opportunity to hear all of the testimony.

Capt. S.B. Gibbs, surveyor and agent for the Marine Underwriters' Association for Puget Sound, made a thorough inspection of the 'Clallam' while she was in this port fitting out to go into commission.

"I certainly pronounced the 'Clallam' a seaworthy boat. If she were not I never saw one. She presented every evidence of strength in construction. I made numerous voyages on her and always regarded her as safe a vessel as there was on the Sound.
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