A STEAMER BURNED—FORTY PASSENGERS DROWNED OR ROASTED ALIVE. The burning of the steamer Seawanhaka occurred off Randall’s Island, on the afternoon of Monday, June 28th. A dispatch from New York gives the following particulars :—The fire was caused by an explosion in the engine-room, and the middle of the steamboat was soon in -flames. The Captain, Charles Smith, remained at his post until nearly burned to death, and succeeded in beaching the vessel on a sunken meadow adjoining the island. Many sprang overboard and were drowned. Many others on the stem of the vessel could not get ■ off and were burned to death. Of five -hundred persons supposed to be onboard, fifty are believed to have perished. The bodies of about thirty dead persons have been recovered. THE CAPTAIN’S STORY. Charles Smith, Captain of the Seawanhaka, was found in the hospital on Randall’s Island, suffering from severe burns about the arms and face. - He said : About 4.30 I hoard a low dull report or explosion. Quick as thought I turned to ■see what was the matter, when I saw the vessel in flames about amidship. I saw the steamer Granite State on my starboard side. Finding that my steamer was oh fire, i; immediately headed her for the sunken meadow, and with a full head of
steam, although the engineer had been driven fromhis post, Handed heraboutforty feet up on the meadow. Most of the passengers were on the bow of the vessel, and those on the stern were at the mercy of the flames, as all the passages to the bow were cut off. Many jumped on the land, while others jumped into the water. I stood at the wheel until the last minute, and then jumped overboard, and was picked up by a small boat. We had no fre’ght on board, and I do not know what caused the explosion. The Seawanhaka can carry 1,300 persons, but Monday is generally a dull day, and we had only about 250 or 300 on board this afternoon. DRIVEN AWAY BY THE FLAMES. The engineer of the steamer, Frank Weeks, and his son, Edward, who was a fireman on the steamer, were at their posts at the time of the fire. The fireman explains that some of the small tubes of the boiler must have burst, throwing the furnace door open and scattering the hot coals around, whick set fire to the vessel. He, like his father, was driven from his post by the flames. Both escaped with severe burns. The number of lives lost by the accident cannot be learned, as the steamer, being merely a daily transport, used between near points, kept no register. It is not likely that the list of the lost will number more than fifty. At midnight, eleven bodies—nine of adults, one child, and two babies—were brought to the Morgue at the Bellevue Hospital. A number of persons who had relatives and friends on the Seawanhaka were waiting to identify them, if among the unfortunate. HEARTRENDING SCENES. The scene as the bodies were carried in from the boat and the coffins opened, was a heart-rending one. An old gentleman, Mr. Debeavise, was frantic with grief when he identified the body of his son, David H. Debeavise, of S9l, Pacific street, Brooklyn. The body of a beautiful young woman, about twenty years of age, was identified as that of Mary Reed. The body of a stout lady, about fifty years of age, was supposed to be that of Mrs. Ritchie, of Locust Grove, Long Island. It is reported that there are about fifteen bodies on Randall’s Island, and a number on the Long Island shore. The body of a young man was picked up by a rowboat, and moored to a stake at the foot of One Hundred and Fifteen street. It is known that some of the crew did not do their duty, but jumped into the river and swam ashore. When the flames broke out the Seawanhaka was passing through Hell Gate, but was run on until nearly burned to the water’s edge, and had entered Little Hell Gate.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 134, 3 August 1880
HORRIBLE DISASTER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 134, 3 August 1880
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