Verdict Is Manslaughter
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from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 20 Feb 1904, pg.8

Captain Roberts So Accused In Coroner's Jury on the Clallam Wreck

Engineer De Launay is Severely Censured and the Jurymen Make Recommendations

Yesterday morning the long labors of the coroner's jury on the 'Clallam' disaster came to an end and the jury handed in the verdict, the full text of which is as follows:

"Our verdict is that the said Louise Harris, Ethel Diprose, Alexander Harvey, Minnie Murdick, Jessie McDuff Galletly, Jeanne Geraldine Galletly, Nathaniel Peel Shaw, E. Harvey Joy, Margaret Isabella Gill, William Cherrett, Bruno Lehman, Charles W. Thompson, E. Lockwood, Hattie Moore, Mary Reynolds, Harvey Sears, Albert Kimmons Prince, Dellie C. Sullins, Peter La Plant and R.J. Campbell did come to their death at a point on the coast of Vancouver Island, about four miles southeast of Trial Island, by drowning and exposure, and that George Roberts, the master of said steamer 'Clallam', did feloniously and unlawfully kill and slay the said persons against the peace of Our Lord the King, his crown and dignity.

"The jurors also find that the chief engineer of the steamer 'Clallam' is deserving of censure for being negligent in his duties in not keeping his pumps in proper working order.

"The jurors also find that the steamer 'Clallam' left Port Townsend on January 8, 1904, in an unseaworthy condition, having defective deadlights, a defective rudder and improperly equipped lifeboats.

"And the jurors recommend:

"(a) That a more thorough inspection be made of all vessels by competent and fully qualified inspectors than is at present the custom, and that the carrying of rockets and other distress signals should be made compulsory.

"(b) That the Dominion government be asked to keep a larger and more powerful boat for quarantine service in place of the tug 'Earle', now in commission, which could be used in case of impending disaster.

"(c) Also to have a light placed on Trial Island."

The only witness called yesterday was S. Sea, a ship carpenter, who examined the upper works of the 'Clallam' at Sidney. He had carefully looked over the deck and had found no bolts or fastenings to secure it to the hull.

"I don't know, gentlemen," he continued, "what held the upper works in place. I never saw a boat so constructed." He had inspected the stanchions, and there was nothing to indicate that bolts had been used in securing the passenger deck. Measuring the hole into which the rudder stock had fitted he had found it just eleven inches in diameter.

In reply to a question by Juror Marcon regarding the inspection of boats here, the witness said: "Gentlemen, the inspections held here are mere farces. I've seen government inspectors walk down and look over a steamer. They would give her a dig with an umbrella here and there and I suppose because they couldn't put it through the wood they issued certificates."

Witness was proceeding to give instances where unseaworthy vessels had passed inspection but Coroner Hart interrupted these narratives and pointed out that if such evidence was taken the inquest would practically be doing the duty of a grand jury. Witness also said that there were vessels at running from this port which were not safe.

Witness said also, that there were sealing vessels leaving this port in an unseaworthy condition, and that many sailing ships had left here in the same state.

It was explained to the witness by the coroner that vessels under 100 tons were not inspected. It was not even necessary for such ships to carry a certified master.

Mr. Lugrin volunteered to bring this matter to the attention of the Dominion government if it was the wish of the inquiry.

Coroner Hart pointed out that it was the intention of the government to protect passengers. If individuals were foolish enough to risk their lives in the unseaworthy ships it was nobody's business but their own.

Mr. McPhillips asked witness whether he was to understand witness to make a charge against Capt. Collister.

"I don't make any such charge," witness replied. "I'm only stating facts." Capt. Collister had not rightly discharged his duty when the steamer 'Isabel' was passed twelve years ago.

Mr. McPhillips then asked witness if he knew of his own knowledge of the condition of the 'Isabel' when she was given a certificate. Witness could not answer the question. He was then warned to be more careful in making charges against public officials.

Witness' evidence was then read by the coroner, and Mr. McPhillips expressed his opinion that the statement to the effect that inspections here were farcical should be omitted if the fact that the witness did not know of a specific instance where a certificate was issued to an unseaworthy vessel was not included.

A general discussion ensued and Coroner Hart said he did not see any reason for the revision of the evidence. When witness spoke of the inspections as farcical it was only an expression of opinion.

In spite of all opposition, however, Mr. McPhillips stuck to his point and it was finally decided that all evidence not referring directly to witness' explanation of the 'Clallam's' hull should be struck out. This was done and the witness signed the amended evidence.

The coroner then addressed the jury and said that there was a great deal of evidence, and the enquiry had been different from the ordinary inquest. It would be the first duty of the jury to bring in the ordinary legal verdict. If it was considered that there was any responsibility the indictment must be against some person or persons, not against a corporation. The second duty was to bring in some finding or recommendation as a rider to the verdict, which the coroner promised to transmit to the proper authorities.

There were two possible verdicts - those of accident or manslaughter, and he explained the legal meaning of 'manslaughter'. He pointed out that gross negligence, if fixed on any person, would be sufficient to bring such a verdict against such person.

He explained that the only evidence the jury could use was the evidence of happenings up to the time of the launching of the boats. The inquest was being held on the death of Miss Louise Harris of Spokane, and others who were lost from the boats and brought to Victoria. As these people were dead shortly after the boats were lowered, evidence regarding occurrences after the launching could not be considered.

The first question was whether the ship was in a seaworthy condition when leaving Port Townsend. If not some person was responsible, and that on that person, or persons the blame rested.

There might have been four persons responsible - the builder, the owners, the inspector or the master. Regarding the former the coroner was of the opinion that the steamer was of a flimsy character. The price, however, had been low, and it had been a case of 'the most boat for the least money.' It was, however, satisfactory to the owners.

Referring to the possibility of the owners being responsible, the coroner said it must be first proven that they knew of the ship's unseaworthy condition before leaving Townsend. There was no evidence on this point, and, therefore, the owners could scarcely be considered.

From the evidence that had been addressed nothing grossly illegal had been brought out in connection with the inspection of the vessel on either side of the line. But one thing had been proven, and that was that the hooks used on the davits in lowering the small boats had not fulfilled the requirements of the regulations, and had been allowed to pass. Nothing of an unsatisfactory nature had been brought to light either in connection with the inspection of the hull or the engine room. It was, therefore, a question whether any responsibility could be attached to the inspectors.

"Now," the coroner continued, "we come down to the officers." There was a great deal of contradictory evidence regarding the condition of the 'Clallam' when she left Townsend. If the evidence of the mate and quartermaster was believed, the steering gear of the vessel was in first class condition at Port Townsend, and she answered to her helm without difficulty. On the other hand there was the evidence of members of the crew, and a great many of the passengers to the effect that the rudder was in bad shape. This was corroborated by the fact that a new rudder was had been lying at Seattle ready for installation. If this was so, it was certainly to be presumed that Capt. Roberts was aware of it, and under such circumstances it was poor seamanship for the master to leave port in the face of a heavy storm with faulty steering gear.

Referring to the engine room, the coroner stated that a great deal had been said about the deadlight. According to evidence of the most intelligent witnesses, the water had not all come in that way. This was a matter of common sense, especially when it was considered that according to the mates statement, it was blocked part of the time. The question, therefore, was 'Where did the water come from.' There was no evidence to clear this. It was possible that it had been allowed to enter through faulty manipulation of the sea pumps. Then again there was no evidence to prove this. The only statement on this point was that of Chief Engineer DeLaunay, who swore that this was false, as he personally supervised the closing of the seas injection.

As far as the officers were concerned the launching of the boats might have been worse, but not much. There had been no rush. This might be accounted for in two ways. In the first place the officers seemed to have control over the crew and the passengers, and secondly very few seemed anxious to enter the boats.

There was no doubt that the boats had not been properly loaded or sufficient attention paid to their equipment. To the jury would be left the fixing of this responsibility.

This was all the jury had to do with. The evidence of occurrences on the ship after the lowering of the boats could only affect the verdict insofar as they threw light on happenings that took place before the boats were lowered.

The jury then retired and afterwards returned the verdict as given above.

In discharging the jury the coroner complimented the members on the careful way in which they had considered the evidence.
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