on Warrants Charging Manslaughter Through Negligence
a Distress Signal at Time a Steamer was Passing
The Dominion government will not hold an enquiry into the 'Clallam' disaster. Senator Templeman has been informed that, as the 'Clallam' was an American vessel, it was, therefore, for the United States Government to hold and enquiry. At the coroner's enquiry sensational evidence was given yesterday of how a seaman was ordered by Captain Roberts to haul down a distress signal he had displayed. The seaman had reversed the ensign at the time the 'Mackinaw' was passing, and Capt. Roberts ordered him to raise it to the top of the mast, and right it, until ten minutes later he ordered him to again reverse the flag. C.H. Lugrin, after the adjournment, urged that warrants be issued for the arrest of the captain and others on a charge of manslaughter.
Application for the arrest of Capt. George Roberts and other connected with the recent disaster to the steamer 'Clallam' on Friday last, were made yesterday morning, and the matter has been laid before the Attorney-General. When the inquest, being held before the coroner, Dr. Hart, was adjourned yesterday morning, C.H. Lugrin, appearing as council for the Dominion government, said that sufficient evidence had now been secured to cause the arrest of Capt. Roberts and other persons directly responsible for the recent disaster to the 'Clallam' and he would urge that warrants be issued for the arrest of these persons on a charge of manslaughter. He would ask Mr. McPhillips, appearing on behalf of the provincial government, to take up the matter with the Attorney-General. Mr. McPhillips accordingly laid the matter before the Attorney-General.
Evidence was given by Richard Griffiths, seaman of the 'Clallam', yesterday of the passing of a steamer which he took to be a steam collier - probably the 'Mackinaw' - and of how one of members of the crew had taken the ensign from the flag locker and hoisted it upside down, half way up the jack-staff, and of how Capt. Roberts had seen this and ordered that the flag be taken down and hoisted right side up, to the top of the mast, as though nothing was the matter. Ten minutes after the captain seemed to realize his error, and he ordered the flag again reversed. The steamer which the witness thought was a steam freighter or a collier was then passing about three miles away. This was at daylight on Friday afternoon. This witness also told of the great excitement under which the captain was laboring, of seemingly unintelligent remarks that witness would be drowned, of the witness' lack of faith in the chances of safety of those who went in the boats, of the failure to attempt to save those capsized from the first boat lowered when they were struggling in the water alongside the steamer before other boats were lowered.
The witness was the last living man on board the ill-fated steamer, and he told of watching the passengers and crew being swept off the side of the hull at the last minute from a position into which he had climbed up the stays near the light at the foremast head. From there he saw the people clinging to the steamer's side swept one after the other by the combers, and of how, after one great wave had washed away all who remained except himself, high up in the rigging, he saw the steamer's side torn away and the ribs and knees left exposed naked along the side. Then the stays gave way, and he, too went into the sea. He told of many incidents of the lack of distress signals, of refusals to put the passengers and crew on the tug. In answer to their requests, of how the rudder had been known to be faulty and of other things.
The first witness called yesterday was W.J. Holden, who told of a trip made on December 19th on the 'Clallam' when the engines broke down off Port Townsend, and after the vessel had been drifting for almost two hours he noticed a tug approach and leave shortly after. Another tug came up and it also left. Shortly after the engines were started and the steamer went into Port Townsend. No one left the steamer by those tugs. There was a sail up. The weather was not rough and there was no excitement.
Richard S. Griffiths of this city, seaman of the 'Clallam', said the 'Clallam' ran into a head sea soon after leaving Port Townsend. He saw storm signals displayed at Port Townsend before leaving that port. Waves broke over the vessel and washed along the upper deck, leaking to the main deck, as the upper deck was not well caulked. After dinner, which was finished at 12:30, he having gone to dinner soon after leaving Port Townsend, he went to his bunk and lay down to read. He heard the freight shifting on the starboard side soon after turning in and he went on deck. He moved back some of the cargo and some members of the crew, who had been sleeping on the oil cake, helped him. Some of the freight, which had shifted, was covered with coal. About fifteen tons had not gone down the chute and rolled when the ship lurched. The ship listed to starboard and we shifted back the cargo to take out this list.
About this time, after moving the cargo, he noticed the water swishing about in the fire room. This was about an hour and a half after leaving port Townsend. The mate then came down and ordered the jib set. A number of the crew afterward went down into the engine room with the mate. He didn't know what was the matter and thought they were on the way to the mess room. The steamer was again listing to starboard and he soon noticed that the water in the fire room was increasing. He sat there watching the firemen shoveling coal into the furnace for some time. When he saw the water coming in he enquired about it, and was told that it was coming in from a port. He asked why the port was not closed, and was told that this could not be done. After this he noticed the crew coming up from the engine room and he went to the hurricane deck. Before they reached the deck the engine had been stopped, and he afterward heard that the fires had been drawn.
When he reached the hurricane deck he assisted in lowering the boats. The mate was giving orders. He did not notice whether the first two boats were tight, not having paid particular attention to them, but the others were all right. He said it would not have been impossible for the crew to have lowered away the life raft and gone to the assistance of those in the water after the boats upset. He went below and saw the first boat lowered and upset. He believed the raft could have been put over with the aid of the passengers and some lives might have been saved. He saw Capt. Tom Lawrence struggling in the water and threw the lead line to him. He was trying to pull Lawrence out of the water and had drawn him so far as the guard when someone grabbed Capt. Lawrence's leg. Witness was unable to pull in the two and the line slipped through his hands. He then turned around and saw the second boat placed in the sea go over. Unable to do anything to save Capt. Lawrence he made the lead line fast and returned to the upper deck. After the second boat upset he saw it right itself and there were a number in it holding on, amongst whom he recognized the mess-boy. He saw, besides Capt. Lawrence, some women and some of the crew in the water.
After launching the boats on the starboard, the lee side, they went over to the port boats on the weather side. They had a hard time in getting them over. One of the starboard boats, the after boat, tipped in the davits and spilled everybody out. This was No. 5 boat. She was swinging at an angle from the forward davit, when he went to cut her adrift. Others told him they had neglected or failed to let the tackle down at that end. There was no reason why it should not work.
Capt. Roberts was on the hurricane deck when the boats were being launched. After launching the port boats witness went down to the freight deck to assist in throwing cargo overboard. They ripped open the bales of mattresses, after pushing other things through the port, and put them over. Then others started throwing oil cake over from the starboard side. Then they jettisoned coal oil. The pumps were cut out then, to see if they would work. It was about dusk then. It had been daylight, about 3:30 or 4 o'clock when the boats were put over. The pumps could be operated by hand or steam. There being no steam the hand gear was used. The mate and he started the pumps. Then others came. When they found they could not run the pumps he said to the mate' "Why don't you get those buckets down." The pumps would give two or three strokes then stop. It was dirt in the bilges which stopped them. He had tried them about three or four months before by hand, but they were not tried out much latterly. They worked fine on that occasion. They ere working both by hand and steam when tried previously. The mate got the buckets down after witness suggestion and started everybody bailing. We continued bailing until the tugs came. The captain was on the bridge most of the time. The mate acted as pilot. There was no second mate. The inside steward, Currie, kind of acted as second mate. The anchors were lashed to the deck. He asked the mate how deep the water was and he said 150 fathoms. Witness said, "If that's so the anchors will not be any good here. We haven't that much cable. The mate said the anchors had better be got over, anyhow, in case they had occasion to use them." As they were getting the anchors ready he saw a masthead light and soon afterwards saw the port sidelight. He told the mate there was a steamer coming and he ran to the hurricane deck and told the captain. He got twp lanterns then and one was waved forward and the other aft. Witness asked the mate if he had a red light. He replied that he didn't know if there was any to be found at that time. He remembered having seen a redlight in the social hall in the afternoon and went down and got it. He walked along the hurricane deck with it to try and attract the tug's attention. It kept going out and he got a towel. He did not ask for rockets. If there had been any rockets, blue fire or anything like that on board it would have been used. He did not think there were any such articles on board. He had noticed the flag of the 'Clallam'. One of the fellows got the ensign out of the box, turned it upside down and hauled it to half mast. This was just after the boats were gone boats were gone. The captain saw him and made him haul it down again. The captain made him turn it right side up and haul it to the top of the mast, as if nothing was the matter. It was a member of the crew who had hauled up the flag. He said that a large steamer passed just after the boats were launched. As far as he could judge, she was three miles away. When the steamer was seen one of the members of the crew went to hoist the flag as a distress signal. The captain then realized his mistake and changed his mind. The captain saw he was wrong and made the seaman put the flag up again in a reversed position. This was the only way they had tried to signal the vessel. The steamer seemed to be a steam freighter or a collier. The only way the 'Clallam' could have signaled to her was with a reversed flag and her house flag. He said there were no flares made or rockets discharged. It had occurred to him at night to soak a blanket in oil and make a torch. He had not mentioned this to anyone, The tug came soon after he thought about it. No flares or signals were made. More than ten minutes elapsed from the time Captain Roberts ordered the seaman to take down the reversed flag he had put up until it was placed in that position again. As soon as Captain Roberts saw he was wrong he had it changed.
When the tugboat 'Holyoke' came, her captain sung out and asked if the 'Clallam' wanted a tow. The tug came about 9 or 10 o'clock. When the tug came the captain said to the mate, "Here Billy, take this horn, I can't holier." Billy, meaning the mate, tried to sing out. Witness heard him say, "Tow to Victoria." The mate could not make himself heard. Witness then sung out to the tugboat captain to take the vessel in tow. The tugboat captain replied, "Where to?" Witness said. "Anywhere." He thought the 'Holyoke' would take the 'Clallam' under the lee of Discovery Island, which was only a short distance off. The deck boy shouted out, "Run to Victoria." The tugboat captain replied that he could not go to Victoria as there was too strong a head sea. The tug then started to town to Port Townsend. Capt. Roberts said nothing, as far as witness could hear. Replying to one of the jurymen, witness said the captain of the 'Holyoke' virtually got his instructions from one of the deck crew.
When the tug took the steamer in tow nothing was told the captain of the tug regarding the condition of the 'Clallam'. The tugboat master would naturally think that the vessel had just broken down. The vessel was high out of the water, but really she was sinking. There were lots of requests by both passengers and crew to be transferred to the tug. Witness had said to the mate then: "I guess all of us will go aboard the 'Holyoke'. The mate replied that he didn't know. The captain did not say anything. Witness did not hear the captain make any response to the passengers requests. He did not think there was a passenger on board who was not singing out to the tug to come and help them. The tug was on the weather side.
Witness said he knew as soon as the tug took hold that the 'Clallam' would never see Port Townsend. The boat at that time was practically full of water. There was a bulkhead between the steerage and the bunkers, and the ship was dry forward of this. The glory hole, where the deck crew ate, which had a table in the middle and rooms on either side, was full of water, the engine room, boilers, fire room and coal bunkers were all full of water, but the steerage and foc'ale were dry.
All in board then went down to bail. Capt. Livingstone Thompson got the passengers going. He seemed to take charge. He got them bailing, and witness bailed until the dining room and galley windows were broken in by the wash of the sea. The cabin and dining room had been dry until the waves broke those windows. He and a deck boy had got planks and started to board up the broken windows, but as fast as they did so others were broken in. By the time he and the boy stopped working at the windows the crew and passengers below had stopped bailing and gone up to look at the towboat. They started to go forward for the vessel was well down by the stern.
After standing talking on the saloon deck forward for a few minutes, witness went down into the foc'ale, which was dry, and got his pipe. He filled it and lit it, and then went on deck again. It was very cold and he went into a stateroom and got some blankets to wrap around him. He was sitting in the stateroom with some others when the purser came and told them there was a couple of bottles of whiskey in a stateroom on the starboard side. A couple of the deck hands went down to get it, but they got left. The water had covered it. After sitting there for some time the boat began to go over and he went to the port quarter with some others.
After noticing the steamer approaching he came out and stood on the forward saloon deck watching the course she was going to take. He saw the steamer listing over to port, the stern going down first, with the bow high out of the water, and he clambered over the rail on to the bow. Some of the fellows followed him. He stepped on the net in which the jib had been stowed, and, catching his feet, warned the others not to tread on it. Then he got down over the rail on to the weather board and stood there. He noticed how the water was climbing up on the saloon deck by watching how the houses were slowly covered. He then saw another tug come alongside, and he heard the captain sing out to her to go and tell the other tug to stop towing.
In answer to Juryman Cullin, he said it was the custom of the sea if a tow line was cast off for a tug to come back to her tow. It had occurred to him to cut the tow line, but this was the first wreck he had been in, and he had been told that the captain had the right to shoot any man who disobeyed orders. He thought drowning was bad enough. The tugs both came back.
The second tug, the 'Sea Lion', went to have the other tug stop towing instead of coming to her rescue. The 'Sea Lion' then dropped astern. By this time water was up to the witness' breast. It was very cold, and he tried to clamber higher up. He asked the men holding on there to move along. They didn't, and he climbed over them. He turned as he had done and saw a wave sweep them all off into the water. He hurried up and, climbed into the rigging, he got up the stays alongside the foremast headlight. The captain was then hanging on to the side of the vessel with the rest of those there. He could see them all plainly and a number of people floating about in the sea beneath him. They were being washed off, and then a big sea came along and carried away the whole business.
There was only one life raft on board. It was amidships. He had cut the lashings of this, all except one, at the time the boats were lowered. He had his eye on the raft, he had marked that for himself to get away on at the last thing, but he lost it. If he had not cut the lashings when he did it would have been still with the wreck. He didn't see the captain, but saw a number of others, all go into the water. He looked along the side after they had gone and saw the whole starboard side break and go into the water. This frightened him. He saw the ribs sticking out. Then the stay he was on parted and he was thrown into the water. He didn't know how long he was afloat before he floated against the pilot house. The chief engineer was on that. He saw the oiler in the water trying to get his head through one of the ring life buoys. He already had a life belt on. Witness got the oiler n the pilot house. Then he saw a Chinaman floating and pulled him in. They floated around for about an hour on the pilot house and were then picked up by a tug.
To the jury - He knew of three ports having been broken for some time, one in the engine room, one in the steerage, and the other in the fireman's foc'ale. They had been broken for three months; the clamps were off. He thought the captain was sober. He was much excited when the boats were being lowered. When he saw at the second boat with Harvey Sears, lowering away the boat, Capt. Roberts sung out to witness telling him that he (witness) was going to be drowned. Witness replied that if he did he would not be the only one. Witness was heard because of this remark. If he had not been doing right the captain could have told him so without speaking as he did. If the captain had thought to frighten him he had not done so. He had never seen the captain under the influence of liquor. He was always sober.
He had thrown the lead line while the ship was drifting, and got 100 and 70 fathoms and no bottom. His line had been tangled. The mate told him there were 150 fathoms there. The decks were badly caulked, but the hull had never leaked previously. He believed the boats to be all right when lowered. He was surprised to see them being put out. Instead of rescuing those who capsized from the first boat, the captain had put over others. He had not tried to rescue those drowning right alongside the vessel. The passengers were much excited, but took things coolly under the circumstances, Soon as the boats were put over, those lowering them went on to the others. He did not know if the captain could see them go over from where he stood on the hurricane deck. It was the captain's place to see that the boats were clear. He did not see the first boat capsize, but saw the people in the water right after ward, and had himself tried to save Captain Lawrence.
To C.H. Lugrin. He said he had noticed the storm signals at Port Townsend. He described them. It was blowing stiff at Port Townsend, and they knew if it was blowing stiff there it would be blowing hard in the Straits. The vessel was well loaded, usually forward. She had a nice little load to make her steer good. She was not down in the head. Off Protection Island he had noticed the cargo begin to shift. The wind was then dead ahead. When the steamer shifted to her proper course the wind was on the port bow, or beam. If the rudder had acted all right the steamer could have been kept on her course. The rudder was faulty and would not steer well.
The inquest then adjourned to meet this morning at the court house, and Mr. C.H. Lugrin, after stating that he wished in further examine this witness, said that he considered that enough evidence had been adduced to cause warrants to be issued for the arrest of Captain Roberts and others directly or indirectly responsible for the disaster on a charge of manslaughter. He asked Mr. McPhillips to take the matter up with the Attorney-General's department. Juryman Marcon also spoke to this end. The coroner would not discuss the matter, and said that this was a matter for others than the jury, some of the members of which showed a disposition to undertake more than the jury was called upon to do.