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THE INQUEST., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 334, 3 May 1881
Wyndham, Yesterday. Mr McCulloch, Coroner, from Inververcargill, got to Otara shortly after midday. Arrangements were at once made to hold an inquest. The jury were chosen from a few of the residents of the locality (Messrs Brunton, Attwood and Co.), and from some of the Invercargill visitors (Messrs Hodges, Kingsland, and others). The inquest began about 2 o’clock, and up till half-past 5, only the chief and second mate had been examined. The Coroner, jurymen, and police asked most extraneous questions, the second mate, for instance, being asked how far from the wreck he picked up the body which went to Dunedin in the Hawea. They were evidently seeking information of all and every kind, whether connected with the subject of enquiry or not, and were taking advantage of the earliest opportunity of getting it at first hand from survivors. It delayed the proceedings considerably. So much was this the case that whilst the second mate was giving his evidence a j uryman gave expression to the opinion that they were surely inquiring into the cause of the wreck and not of the cause of the death of the passengers over whom they were sitting. The Coroner allowed that there was room for the complaint, but he had given a good deal of scope, seeing that the matter was of great importance. The evidence of the two witnesses is not given in detail, as particulars relative to the proceedings after the vessel struck have been so fully published that the public would not gain any new light upon the question as to whether everything possible was done for the safety of the passengers. We consequently give the most important portion of the evidence.
The first witness was Robert Lindsay, who deposed—l was chief officer of the Tararua. She left Dunedin on Thursday evening. I had the watch from, six to eight. The captain was on s deck going out of the Heads. I again took charge at midnight, and stayed on deck till four a.m. The captain told me to call him at a quarter to four. I did so, and he came on deck. I was steering W.S.W. He told me to continue that course. At four o’clock the course was altered to W., and I went below. The captain gave orders to alter the course. The land was in sight at four o’clock. I reckoned we were about five miles to the eastward of Waipapa Point at the time I went below. The course being altered brought the vessel farther in shore.—l-was-awoke by the vessel striking at a quarter past five. The captain was giving orders to call all hands to clear away the boats. "We cleared them all away, and hung them to the davit heads. We then waited till daylight to see about landing. The boats were all life-boats, two having life-boat fenders in them.
To Jurymen and to Inspector Buckley —Some of the passengers tried to get into the boats as they were hanging to the davits, but the captain ordered them out. They were all males. I saw the body of a woman that came ashore on Saturday. I know I have seen her on board. I fancy she was a saloon passenger. She had no rings on. A man came ashore on Friday evening. He was swimming with a life-buoy. He was greatly knocked about by the breakers, and got senseless amongst them. He was eight or ten minutes among the breakers. We tried to restore him, but failed. I judge we were 15 miles from where we struck when I went below at four o’clock, and going ten or ten and a-quarter knots an hour. I hold a master’s certificate. lam well acquainted with the coast, and considered the vessel to be the usual distance off the coast when I left the deck. The two bodies found to-day I also recognise as those of passengers who were on board. Ido not know their names. I do not think the captain did wrong in altering the course. It was hazy on the land. It was a bright starlight night, with a haze on the horizon. We passed the Nuggets at twelve o’clock, about four miles off. I think we were five miles off the land when I went down, or from four to five. If a W.S.W. course had been kept, the accident would not have happened. The course was altered at the usual time, but the ship might have over-run herself, or the reverse. It was about one o’clock when I began to think the vessel might break up. I do not think it would have been prudent to send the boats to sea with the passengers. Edward Maloney, second mate, repeated the same statement I sent yesterday as to what occurred up till the vessel struck. To Inspector Buckley—As far as I know everything possible was done for the safety of the passengers after the vessel struck. Captain Garrard did everything he could to procure the safe dispatch of the passengers from the ship by seeing that the boats were properly got off, and that the best crew were put in them.- There was confusion when she struck, but the captain did all he could to give the people confidence.
To Jurymen—lt is a very difficult thing to see how far the land is off when there is a haze. When I took charge 1 could not tell how far the land was away. The ship was steered the usual course, in fact, she was stereed a little out rather than anything else, because of the heavy swell setting in. I consider the captain was justified in altering the course. I presume the captain thought we had passed Waipapa Point when he changed the course to west. I supposed that the vessel had, and the captain was more positive than me about it that the ship was past Waipapa Point. I think where we struck was four miles from Waipapa Point. When I thought I heard breakers, and rushed aft, I found the captain working at his chart in his chart room.
A Juryman—Can you form any idea what caused the vessel to fetch the reef ?
Answer—l suppose it must have been the heavy set of the swell. Did you hear any ladies appealing to the captain to save them ? I did not.
Had 'yon power to order the engineer to reverse the engines when you fancied you saw breakers ? Certainly I had ; but even had I then done so I am sure we would have gone on the reef. But I only fancied I saw breakers. In my opinion a light is necessary on Waipapa Point. I have heard masters say they thought so. The chief mate informed the jury that suggestions had been made to the authorities to place a light there. At 5 o’clock, when the reporter left, the' inquest had not concluded.
[The following was issued by us as an extra last night] : Invercargill, Yesterday. The Otara reef, not the Waipawa, where the Tararua wreck occurred, runs out six or seven miles from the land, in an eastern, angle. The steamer was thus
some miles out of her the view of Dog Island, the light -of which should have been visible. The News has received from its correspondent a number of North Island photographs, washed ashore, by Burton Bros., of Dunedin. The passenger named Hill, in the second mate’s boat, left his wife and child aboard. A female body, much disfigured, was washed ashore. Laurence, a passenger, praised the captain and says the crew were most obedient. The final crash occurred at 3.30 a.m. on Saturday. Wreckage is going on to a disgraceful extent. The police have now arrived, and prevent it. The people at Fortrose say that had a telegraph station been there, the whole disaster would have been prevented. At twenty-five minutes to ten on Friday night, the captain’s voice was supposed to be heard shouting, “ A boat, a boat, boys.” The Rev. Mr Waterhouse was very cool and calm, and told the first mate to be cautious and go steady. The second mate tried to land six passengers. Three were drowned. This result made him, he says, resolve to pull to sea. He had previously landed one man on the reef, and went, seeing him in peril, and took him off. Before going to seaward, he says his idea was to be ready, if the sea got calm, to ship the passengers, as there was then no other boat available.
The body of a man was picked up by the second mate. There were eighteen sovereigns and a ticket for a passenger to England found upon him, and entangled with him were two mail bags. They were all placed on the s. s. Ivakanui, and transferred to the s.s. Hawea.
The body of a girl, supposed to be Miss Kelly, from Auckland, with brown hair and small, dark features, the only clothing being a remnant of underclothing, was washed ashore. It had on a pair of blue and purple worsted stockings, and leather garters lined with red. Later. Advice has just been received of another man washed ashore.
THE INQUEST., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 334, 3 May 1881
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