Coroner's Jury
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CORONER'S JURY EXAMINE WITNESSES
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 10 Feb 1904, pg.6

The Investigation on the Clallam Disaster Was Continued Monday

Witnesses Makes an Important Statement as to the Use of Liferafts

The inquest into the 'Clallam' disaster was continued Monday at 2:30 p.m., at the Court House. Charles P. Bennett was the first witness called, and on being sworn, told the following story:

We left Port Townsend about 12 o'clock and I never noticed anything until about 2 p.m. when the vessel started to pitch pretty heavily. Shortly after I thought something must be wrong as I saw the chief officer and engineer passing up an down the upper deck rather quickly. The captain spoke out a couple of times and I heard him say "we will be in Victoria in about an hour." I was a little anxious and asked a boy who told me we were springing a leak. I got a little excited and hurried away, taking off my coat and immediately putting on a life preserver. I went upstairs and found the starboard boats were being lowered; heard it said, "Women and children first,"; walked over to port a few minutes. When I looked over I saw one boat upset with men hanging on. One boat rowed a short distance away, maybe 200 yards. I recognized one of the men in the water: heard them call him Mr. Shaw. He floated between the boat and the 'Clallam', about 75 feet away. After that we helped to bail water. I helped to lower the port boats, but they were never in the water. After that I took my turn with the rest of the men. Between 9 and 100 o'clock I saw the tug 'Holyoke' come up. The first thing I knew we were being towed back to Port Townsend. I noticed as soon as the tug got a tow on she commenced to settle very quickly. The water commenced to gain; before that we held our own. When I went on deck I told the captain and chief engineer I thought she was settling pretty fast. He looked over the side but did not say anything. According to my judgment there must have been about 40 people aboard. She commenced to list pretty heavy towards the port side. When I saw her listing I worked myself toward the starboard side, and then on towards the smokestack. I saw a raft was already in the water with one man on. I made a spring for the raft and had to swim ten feet to get it. When I got up I saw one man who I noticed was the chief officer. It took me nearly five minutes to get on the raft. The first thing I knew there were ten or twelve on; nearly all were the crew. We drifted around for about half an hour, maybe more, and were finally picked up by the 'Sea Lion'.

In answer to Mr. Lugrin, witness said there was no particular panic. At the time did not think a small boat would live in such a sea. Could see land when the boats were launched. Had asked the captain for flash lights or sky rockets, but was told there were none aboard.

In answer to Mr. McPhillips, witness stated Capt. Roberts was greatly excited at this time. He had no complaints, however, to make against either the captain or the crew. The crew obeyed the captain and did their duty.

Hall Baney said he was in bed at the time of the trouble and was awakened by the purser, who told him to get up and put on a life preserver, which he did. When he got on deck everyone was putting them on. He was not on deck long before they started to lower the boats. I saw the first boat start away a little, but then come back against the ship and upset; the second got away and I heard after it upset, but never saw it. In lowering the third boat they cut one end loose first and spilled all the occupants into the sea. I noticed a woman in the first boat particularly because she had fallen against a rail and knocked her teeth out, her face being all over with blood, and I remember her not wanting to get into the boat, but they made her, and a minute after I saw a man jump from the upper deck and land on her face. He may have been the means of the boat upsetting. After a while I went down stairs and started to bail; saw the tug "Holyoke' come up and heard the captain say we have 8 hours to live, tow us to Port Townsend.

Juror Cullin - You are sure it was the captain's voice.
Answer - I think so; could not swear to it, but it sounded very much like his voice.

I then went upstairs; boat was then sinking pretty fast; made proposition to ask captain to signal the tug to come back and take us off. We were all afraid at first, but finally one of the boys went and came back and informed us that the captain told him he was a fool, saying that he could attend to his business. All the people below seemed to be pretty sore at the captain.

I struck to the ship as long as I could. I saw the raft going away from the ship but couldn't get to it. Shortly after this I was washed overboard and don't remember very much till I was finally pulled up on the rat, some fellow hauled me up by the hair; I was in a pretty exhausted condition.

The captain swore in Seattle that he never left the upper deck when the boats were being launched. I swear he did. I remember one good looking woman about 20 not wanting to get in the boats. I also know that my two partners were in the third boat that spilled all the people in the water; they were both drowned. I also know a man named Jewell, who I am sure went down with the boat.

Was too exhausted when I got to the raft to see or think of anything.

Allan McKeen, a longshoreman and steamboatman, said he had been to sea for the last five years; he was on the S.S. Islander when she was lost, and had been employed on the 'Clallam' for about a month as a deck hand. We left Port Townsend somewhere around 12 o'clock. As we were coming around Port Wilson I noticed it blowing a little. I then turned in. After awhile I was awakened up by the freight shifting and was then called upstairs. After I had been working with the freight and coal, the mate ordered me downstairs to try and fix the deadlight that we could not get shut. We worked away but without any advantage and the water kept pouring in. I noticed one of the main engines had stopped. We could not walk around the engine room on account of water. I did not see all the boats upset; saw the third one spill all the men into the water. I saw one of my mates in the water with a woman clinging to his neck about 15 feet from the ship. I threw a rope to him. It as not long enough. I went to get a longer one, but when I came back he was gone. We had a kind of signal up; no one would ever have taken any notice of it, and the light hoisted would have been there anyway, even if we were in port. The captain seemed excited and was swearing and shouting all the time.

I was only on the ship two days before I heard the boys talking about the rudder. In fact, nearing Port Townsend and other places she never seemed to answer her helm very well.

Witness believed all the water came in through the defective deadlight.

The coroner read a telegram he had received from the builders of the hull, and of the engines of the 'Clallam', saying they would be here on Thursday, and the inquest was adjourned until 3 p.m. on that date. It is possible that both Captain Roberts and the mate will be attending on that date, although nothing definite is known in this connection.
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